[SOUTH SHORE, JULY 10, 2020] When Governor Baker announced Phase 3 of the Reopening Massachusetts plan last week, marking the official July 6 reopening of health clubs, the South Shore YMCA was more than ready.
“Everyone on our team is thrilled to welcome back our members,” said President & CEO Paul Gorman. “Our staff works for the Y because they truly love to serve the community. We are eager to return to our roots, open our doors safely, and help members improve their health at the Y.”
The safety of members, staff and volunteers remains the number one priority for the Y. “We are taking a slow and cautious approach to reopening, closely following all guidelines from Governor Baker’s reopening plans, health experts and local officials to ensure that our facilities meet the highest standards for hygiene and safety, and we have modified our policies and programs to facilitate safe physical distancing practices,” said Gorman.
The South Shore YMCA closed its Quincy YMCA and Emilson YMCA membership operations and facilities on March 16 due to the pandemic. During that time, the Y served the community as a COVID-19 relief organization, offering a temporary shelter at the Quincy Y in partnership with Father Bill’s & Mainspring for people experiencing homelessness, running two emergency childcare centers, operating its Germantown Neighborhood Center Food Pantry at double its normal capacity, and delivering meals to local senior housing.
“All along, we were exceeding CDC standards of cleanliness, safety and social distancing while we ran emergency services and interacted with the public,” said Gorman. “We kept everyone safe, without any incidents. So, we had that experience to take with us when we reopened our branches for membership. We were ready.”
South Shore YMCA Chief Operating Officer, Trevor Williams, said he and his team have spent the past four months studying CDC and state guidelines, monitoring other YMCAs and health club models from around the country to build multiple reopening scenarios. “Ultimately, we predicted and implemented about 90% of what Phase 3 would entail and had that ready,” said Williams. “The team worked hard over the past week to implement the last 10% of the plan and overcome any new challenges.”
Facility occupancy was one of those challenges, with current Phase 3 state restrictions limiting the Y to about 40% of its maximum capacity, or eight people per 1000 square feet, to ensure proper physical distancing during exercise.
To manage this, the Y implemented an online scheduling system for members to reserve membership activities such as lap swimming, group exercise classes, individual strength and cardio workouts, and onsite babysitting for children 2-6 years old. The Y also took many of its group exercise classes outdoors and into larger indoor spaces, such as their field house and gymnasium, to allow for physical distancing.
“The system is working well, and we continue to make improvements thanks to member feedback,” said Williams. “Members who have come back have been almost elated. They are excited to be out, and, for many, this is the first chance they have had to do something healthy.”
As Cynthia Sierra, Chief Executive Officer for Manet Community Health Center and Emilson YMCA member, arrived at the Y for her reserved lap swimming time, she said, “The South Shore Y is the best kept secret. What better time to focus on your health than now? From a healthcare professional lens, the Y has done a wonderful job.”
“Our members want to be back because they need to exercise and swim for their health,” said Ken Berardi, Aquatics Director for the Quincy YMCA. “They appreciate that we have reopened under the new guidelines with structure for keeping the pools safe and sparkling clean. Members are very thankful to be back, and so are we.” The reservation system has allowed for individuals to use the pools with their own private lane, and the Y closes the pools once per hour to clean all touched surfaces before the next reservations arrive.
Members who return say they feel safe and comfortable doing so and are happy to make new adjustments to their routine, such as conducting a 5-question health screening self-certification and sanitizing hands upon entry, wearing a mask during their visit, cleaning their equipment and making reservations in advance.
“There are definitely some adjustments, but it’s worth it,” said Y member Laura Schneider during her workout. “It feels good to be taking better care of myself again. I’ve missed the routine and missed seeing everyone. I’m excited to see more people coming back. My son is so excited to be back in the playroom, he missed the Y as well.”
“I’m very excited, it’s great to be back,” said Emilson YMCA member Peggy Millen as she received instruction on protocols for cleaning the fitness equipment with her own dedicated spray bottle. “I’ve missed it terribly. The Y has it all under control and they’ve done a great job. I feel very safe and it looks so great and clean!”
“Working out in the basement just isn’t the same,” added Y member and personal training client, William Hall. “It is so much more fulfilling to be here.”
Y personal trainer, Tyson Sunnerberg, observes that members seem more upbeat than before, ready to take their health goals more seriously. “It’s a different feeling to exercise here than it is at home. People are experiencing Zoom workout fatigue, they like having people around. Having access to better equipment than you have in your basement, it all makes a difference.”
Paul Gorman said that growing daily reservations is a good sign that members are feeling safe and confident in the work the Y has done to reopen cautiously and carefully. “Returning to the Y is a personal decision and a personal experience,” said Gorman. “The health of our community is our top concern, and we are ready for anyone who wants to come back.”
The Emilson YMCA in Hanover and Quincy YMCA are now open to South Shore YMCA members, and are accepting new memberships. On June 29, the association also opened its three Y day camps, Camp Gordon Clark in Hanover, Nature Adventures Camp in Norwell, and Camp Quirk in Quincy, as well as two Early Learning Centers in Quincy and Hanover. For more information on the Y’s reopening, ssymca.org/reopening.
About the South Shore YMCA
The South Shore YMCA is a leading charitable organization dedicated to strengthening community. Since 1892, the Y has served communities across the South Shore of Massachusetts and beyond, engaging over 60,000 adults, children, families and seniors each day through membership, critical social services, and programs that support a healthy spirit, mind and body. The Y empowers everyone by ensuring access to resources, relationships and opportunities for all to learn, grow and thrive. By bringing together people from all backgrounds, the Y’s goal is to improve overall health and well-being, ignite youth empowerment and demonstrate the importance of connections throughout our community. To learn more about the South Shore YMCA and our causes, visit ssymca.org. The Better You Belongs Here.