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Coronavirus: YMCA of Central East Ontario to resume child care Wednesday, indoor facility reopening Sept. 1

The YMCA of Central East Ontario says it won't be reopening its fitness facilities on schedule with Ontario's Stage 3.
The YMCA of Central East Ontario says it won't be reopening its fitness facilities on schedule with Ontario's Stage 3. AP file photo

Despite Ontario’s Stage 3 opening beginning on Friday, the YMCA of Central East Ontario says it will not reopen its branches until Sept. 1.

The YMCA — with branches in Peterborough, Quinte West and Belleville — says it is currently in the process of reopening its child-care centres and offering day camp programs to support parents who are returning to work.

Global Peterborough has learned that child care will begin on Wednesday in all three locations, and day camps begin next week.

President and CEO of YMCA Central East Ontario David Allen said the three centres had to lay off between 350-360 staff out of almost 390 in total when they first shut down in March.

Over the past few months, Allen said some staff have been brought back and retrained in anticipation for reopening.

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The centres have built outdoor shelters completely separate from the building to conduct the child care activities in.  According to Allen, a maximum of 8 kids and 2 staff members are allowed in each ‘cohort’, with fencing being installed between each group. Intermingling with other groups or outsiders is not allowed. More adjustments have been made in bathroom to allow physical distancing.

“We understand that people need to get back to work,” said Allen “So how can we support them and really help stimulate and energize the economy? That’s really been our focus.”

Parents with previous child care memberships at the centres have been contacted, with priority given to essential workers. Allen said the day cares will operate at about a third of the amount of children they originally had, prior to the pandemic.

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“We are significantly down in numbers, but the expense is the same. It’s something we felt we needed to do as a community organization, to support our community,” said Allen.

Meanwhile, the regional YMCA says its decision to delay opening fitness facilities and other services by nearly two months is based on the timelines from other YMCAs across the country.

Read more: Peterborough area alternate summer camps planned, others cancelled or delayed

“What we’re finding from other YMCAs, there’s still some fear and there’s still some anxiety out there.. that people aren’t rushing back, said Allen. “So we’re going to make sure that we take our time. That we do it right.”

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Although gyms and fitness centres will be permitted to reopen, the YMCA says it wants to understand the guidelines in order to provide members with a safe and enjoyable experience upon return.

“We need to see and understand fully the necessary policies and guidelines, and ensure we take the time to implement these properly,” said CEO David Allen. “We want to ensure our staff understand and are trained to meet expectations upon your return. Our commitment is to put people first — both our valued YMCA members and employees.

“We want to welcome you back as safely as possible.”

What gym-goers can expect during Stage 3 of reopening
What gym-goers can expect during Stage 3 of reopening

Allen says work will continue to ensure facilities meet the “highest standard” of health and safety, including proper physical-distancing practices. There will also be “thorough, deep cleaning” following closures.

Among the expected safety measures to be implemented at each facility are:

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  • Glass barriers at membership desks
  • Health screenings upon entry
  • Contactless scan-in stations
  • Single one-way directional entry and exit
  • Increased sanitization and disinfection
  • Increased hand-sanitizing stations
  • Controlled building access and class sizes that support physical distancing

“We want to be fully transparent as to the reason for our delay in reopening,” said Allen. “In addition to recalling staff, understanding the guidelines, training staff and finalizing our new safety protocols, learning from other YMCAs opening across the country and the time it took to be prepared.”

Allen also said the facilities are considering painting squares or circles on the gym floors, almost 12 feet apart, to ensure physical distancing during classes.

Read more: The New Reality — The uncertain future of fitness studios

“We are also aware of the number of members who are ready to return to physical spaces for their health and fitness needs continues to be low, as there is still some fear and anxiety. This places additional financial challenges upon our organization in supporting the full operational costs of running our YMCA facilities.”

The YMCA says membership fees, which were put on hold upon the closure of its facilities on March 16, will not be reactivated until reopening.