YMCA welcomes back patrons

NILES — Workout machines were whirring and more voices filled the rooms at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA on Wednesday. For the first time in nearly six months, the facility was allowed to reopen under an executive order announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last Thursday.

According to the executive order’s release, Executive Order 2020-175 outlines “strict workplace safety measures gyms and pools must follow to protect people from the spread of COVID-19.”

Those measures were in effect beginning at the entryway of the Niles-Buchanan YMCA, at 905 N. Front St.

Kayla Foster, marketing director of the YMCA of Greater Michiana, was at the door performing some of the safety precautions now in effect for those using the YMCA’s equipment and services.

Upon entry, those coming to the YMCA will need to provide their name and phone number, and respond to a short questionnaire about COVID-19 symptoms. Patrons will also get a pump of hand sanitizer, have temperatures checked and be required to wear a mask to enter.

“Per the executive order, masks are required, even when working out,” Foster said.

The only place masks are not required, for those over 5 years old and medically able to wear a mask, is in the pool.

Foster said by late afternoon, the YMCA had seen nearly 245 patrons throughout the day. She said it was a slow start to reopening, in comparison to how many patrons the YMCA saw before the shutdown.

The Niles-Buchanan YMCA partnered with the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA in their opening plans. According to a phased re-opening chart on the YMCA’s website, immediately available upon reopening were the cardio and weight rooms, the pool for group lessons, lap swims, swim team, family swim, with aqua fitness classes coming in the next week. Personal training, massage therapy, Childwatch, outdoor and virtual fitness classes, locker rooms and showers, towel service, and bottle filling stations were all ready to go for patrons at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA. The preschool offerings at the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph YMCA were immediately available.

In the next two weeks, the Niles-Buchanan YMCA anticipates offering open swim, parties and building rentals, CPR and lifeguard training.

Further offerings are slated for Oct. 25, however, amenities like the steam room and sauna, coffee in the lobby, drinking fountains, open gym and LIVESTRONG/StayStrong offerings will not be offered again until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Foster was happy to have the YMCA back open for patrons.

“It’s been a slower start, but I think it’s good,” she said. “It’s exciting to see people back in the building. It’s been a quiet six months since we’ve been closed, so having the lights on and hearing the machines running and seeing people out there is awesome.”

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