YMCA Workout 2

Colleen Quindlen takes the temperature of Oscar Mullen as part of the YMCA's new safety protocols on Friday.

The Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum is open for business under safety protocols designed to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission that include temperature checks and face masks. Visitors must make a reservation before entering the facility.

Seniors and other coronavirus-vulnerable people are advised to not enter.

YMCA CEO Jason Shearer said the new restrictions, while cumbersome, are worth it.

“We want to give people hope,” Shearer said. “This [pandemic] could last through the end of the year or even longer.”

The YMCA closed its doors on March 15 but kept paying as many of its 100 staff employed as wanted to remain in their jobs. A Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection loan was received to cover paychecks until June 1, Shearer said.

Last Wednesday, the third day of new operations, staff members wearing face masks were situated throughout the ground floor to instruct visitors on the new protocols. It begins with a hand sanitization station at the north entrance. At a new orientation desk, patrons sign coronavirus risk waivers before people proceed on one-way paths throughout the building. Drinking fountains are not working, but spouts can be used to fill water bottles.

“You will need to bring a water bottle,” Shearer said.

For now, there are no personal trainers, but all the machines, including Pilates equipment, are available. Group classes are being held outside.

About 100 visitors per day are showing up, compared to the nearly 600 who typically visit the facility each day in peak season, Shearer said. They lift weights and use exercise machines that have been spaced out widely, taking up areas that usually are reserved for classes. Spin cycling and yoga are taking place outside the front entrance, weather permitting.

“A room that once would have had 100 people in it, now has 10,” Shearer said.

The orientation waiver lists numerous coronavirus avoidance procedures that, if followed, form a training regimen of sorts: no face touching, keep a distance of 6 feet, allow disinfected areas to dry without wiping, wash hands before and after touching anything. Greetings should not include physical interactions.

“Tip your hat, wave or offer a friendly and welcoming squirt of hand sanitizer,” the waiver form states.

Shearer said adjustments to the HVAC system have increased humidity and air flow throughout the building.

“We have increased fresh air flow by 300 percent,” he said.

The swim lanes are open by reservation only, but the jacuzzi and steam rooms are closed, as are the kids splash pool and water slide.

“The splash pool is a social event for kids, so we have not found a solution that would allow us to use it safely yet,” Shearer said.

But the YMCA has expanded it services to K-5 students with a home school day camp for kids whose parents have returned to work. The camp, on the ground floor, is open for up to eight kids in each session. On June 1, the capacity will be increased to 17. The YMCA will also once again offer a Power Scholars afterschool program, beginning June 22.

“This year there will be a focus on literacy, because these kids missed out on months of learning,” Shearer said.

The climbing wall—also open by reservation only—and every other touched surface in the building is cleaned every day.

“This building wasn’t this clean when it was new,” Shearer said.

Shearer said the YMCA board of directors will continue to design its coronavirus safety protocols based on guidelines from the CDC, OSHA, Idaho Rebounds and the Department of Health, and weekly calls with the YMCA Mountain States Alliance.

Shearer said he looks forward to the day when the YMCA can once again offer indoor group classes, which he said are essential to community health.

“Group exercises are important because there’s a social component,” he said. “People who work out together are more likely to succeed. Those who also work out on their own are highly likely to succeed.”

For more information go to woodriverymca.org.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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