COA eyes reopening date

CASSOPOLIS — A Cass County organization that provides services to senior citizens is looking forward to reopening its doors soon.

The Cass County Council on Aging has begun a phased reopening plan, following months of shutdowns due to the COVID-19 virus. As the COA primarily provides services to older populations, who are more likely to become seriously ill if infected with coronavirus, administrators said they are taking a cautious approach to reopening the Cassopolis and Dowagiac facilities. 

“All of our plans are dependent on the governor and any executive orders,” said CEO Marty Heirty. “We are slowly rolling out some programs, more on the care services side, such as in-home care, medical transport and more activities that are more one-on-one or smaller.”

According to the COA’s plan, it is eyeing July 6 as the day staff hopes to reopen its facility with limited capacity and its fitness center with limited capacity. The plan states all guests and staff would be required to maintain 6 feet of social distance from others and have their temperature taken and answer a health questionnaire before entering the building. The COA will also adhere to stringent sanitation measures and provide facial coverings.

Activities that would be allowed under the reopening would allow for social distancing, such as bingo, book club, cooking and craft classes, knitting club, mediation, Bible study and more. It is still undetermined when meals will again be served in the COA’s dining rooms, when clubs that cannot maintain social distancing, such as ceramics, chess, line dancing, Mah Jongg, Pinochle, quilting or euchre, will again be able to meet, or when bus trips will resume. 

“July 6 is the closest to normal we are looking at, but even then, a number of services will not be available,” Heirty said. “We went through every activity we have and said, ‘is this something we can have people in a room 6 feet apart?’”

Heirty said Cass County residents do not need to wait until July to see COA services in action. Throughout the pandemic, the COA has continued to run its Meals on Wheels program and Adult Day Service. Recently the organization also began hosting pickleball and walking club, and outdoor fitness classes will begin June 22.

While Heirty said the shutdown of the COA has been hard on everyone, and he understands many are ready to get back to normal, he believes cautious and slow is the best approach to keep the organization’s clients safe.

“People want us to open, and we needed to be sure we get it right,” he said. “We put a lot of time and thought into this plan, and we do think we can reopen safely.”

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