YMCA reopens

Ottumwa YMCA CEO Tom Sisler takes a picture next to a sign stating the YMCA’s new hours and limited access to various areas. “Members are encouraged to wear masks,” the sign reads. YMCA staff are required to wear masks.

OTTUMWA — Even though the YMCA reopened this week, things aren’t completely back to normal.

YMCA CEO Tom Sisler said the facility reopened at 50 percent capacity and staff are required to wear masks inside the building. Gym equipment is 6 feet apart, members are asked to follow social distancing guidelines, and the restrooms are deep cleaned and sanitized. Fitness classes are canceled. The pool isn’t yet open, either.

YMCA members under 16 are not allowed to enter the facility. It wasn’t an easy decision, Sisler said, but he and the employees made the decision in the interest of public safety.

“The reason we’re not allowing members under 16 is partly because the schools had closed,” Sisler said. “We didn’t want kids congregating as it’s currently not safe for kids to be in group settings. It’s not the best for the safety of the kids. We love having kids at the Y, but we just want the Y to be a safe place for them and don’t feel now is the time for them to come.”

Child care remains open. Parents and guardians who drop off their children don’t come into the building. Instead, they’re greeted by a child care staff member.

“As organizations and individuals, we want to be good roles for each other,” Sisler added. “We really do care about people’s safety and nobody is doing anything different except taking those extra precautions. This is a time — as we work through the crisis — we have to model to be safe. It’s different than it was before. We have people who are young children and elderly, and are responsible to do everything in a safe way.”

The YMCA was initially going to reopen May 11, but Sisler and YMCA staff decided to wait.

“In mid-May we thought it would not be appropriate to reopen,” Sisler said, “because we saw the number of cases going up and thought it probably wasn’t the best time to reopen.”

Before the facility reopened, employees agreed that safety would be the top priority.

“We did more preparation to talk about our feelings and where we’re at with reopening,” Sisler added. “We wanted the whole community to know it was important for us to get back to reopening, but we wanted to make sure we could step up and be safe and prepared to take the next step.”

As the YMCA reopens, Sisler said employees will continue to use their reopening phase model until they can open at full capacity.

“The phases range from phase one to phase five,” he said. “At phase five everything is closed; it’s like saying ‘man the Y left town.’ At phase one — everything goes back to normal. We’ll probably never see phase one completely … at least for a while.

“People are learning to live with the virus,” Sisler added. “Once we get the green light to reopening our state doesn’t mean that everything goes back to normal.”

The YMCA hours have been reduced to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information about the reopening, contact the YMCA at 641-684-6571.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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