Working it out: YMCA welcomes back members, campers with pandemic protocols in place 

  • Bre Allore reads to a group of 3-5-year-olds in Camp Koala, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A man works out in a weight room, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. Stations are arranged for social distancing and cones, red for used and green for clean, are part of the process. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Cohen, left, scales a pad as Joseph Greco waits his turn during Camp Prospect, for 5-14-year-olds, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A man works out in a weight room, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. Stations are arranged for social distancing and cones, red for used and green for clean, are part of the process. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Joseph Greco grabs a parallel bar during Camp Prospect, for 5-14-year-olds, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group of children exercise, including Alona Maya Fleisher, front, during Camp Prospect, for 5-14-year-olds, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Julie Bianco, who is the CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA, stands in a cardio room that has been renovated in accord with pandemic guidelines, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A cardio room at Hampshire Regional YMCA has been renovated in accord with pandemic guidelines, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. Cones, green for clean and red for used, are part of the process. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Alexia Martin-Vedilago and Joseph Greco walk a a balance beam during Camp Prospect, for 5-14-year-olds, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Cohen scales a pad during Camp Prospect, for 5-14-year-olds, Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at Hampshire Regional YMCA. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Julie Bianco, who is the CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA, stands in a cardio room that has been renovated in accord with pandemic guidelines, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Julie Bianco, who is the CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA, stands in a cardio room that has been renovated in accord with pandemic guidelines, Tuesday, July 14, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/14/2020 5:18:54 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For the first time since March, in-person activities resumed in the Northampton and Holyoke YMCA facilities.

Business has been slower than usual but smooth since the YMCA reopened on Monday, said Julie Bianco, CEO of Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton.

“I wasn’t really sure what to anticipate, and it was really a pleasant opening day,” Bianco said. “It was nice to see familiar faces back in the building.”

The facility pool’s and outdoor classes have been popular, she said, though indoor facilities have been quiet so far — on Monday and Tuesday, Bianco estimates that members resumed using the facility at about 10% of their usual levels. Nationally, other YMCAs have been  reporting about 20% of members returning so far, according to Bianco, though she noted that people in the Northeast have shown more caution in general as the state gradually lifts lockdown measures.

In accordance with state, local and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, members must follow regulations such as staying 6 feet apart, wearing masks when not in the pool and bringing their own specialty equipment, such as mats or towels. The Y also has set up plastic barriers between exercise machines.

“It’s a very complex kind of situation to open a Y,” Bianco said. “We have pools, we have camps, we have wellness centers, we have group exercises — so we’re much more than one room.”

Karen Banta of Westhampton was among the members who returned to the Hampshire Regional YMCA on its first day. Banta has followed social distancing measures strictly, she said, but felt comfortable returning to the Y due to regulations in place. Banta also relies on the facility to access the treadmill machines, which she said play a big role in her fitness routine.

“I’m very, very cautious with my health,” Banta said. “I’m an over-65 person, so it’s only because of the reassuring protocols that they made available to members that I returned on the first day.”

Facilities like the Y should only open with the “utmost caution” at this time, Banta said. Prior to the shutdown, Banta would go to the Y three to five times a week. She will not visit the facility as frequently now due to the pandemic, she said, but plans to supplement her in-person activities with the Y’s virtual programming.

Florence resident Nancy Ringey said that she and her husband, both YMCA members, are not ready to return to the YMCA yet due to personal risk factors, but she hopes to return later in the summer or early fall. 

Ringey is waiting to return “only because they’re still working things out there, and we know how the virus has spread easily,” she said, noting that she is still “a very big supporter of the Y” and has taken virtual classes during the shutdown. Ringey had previously gone to the Y five days a week.

But in general, Ringey believes that fitness facilities should be able to open if they take the right precautions.

“If you’re following the CDC guidelines and state and local guidelines, I think it’s wise to open slowly like the Y is doing,” Ringey said, adding that people should also consider their individual risk and comfort levels before deciding if they will return.

“I think people want to get out more, but each person has to evaluate how safe they feel,” Ringey said.

Members so far have been “wonderful” about following the guidelines, Bianco said, “and they’re very appreciative that we are following the guidelines as well.”

Although the Y offered some virtual workout programs during the months it was closed, Bianco said some members she spoke with since the reopening still feel that they had lost physical strength and endurance during the shutdown. While not everyone is ready to return to the facility, Bianco emphasized the benefits of staying active during the pandemic.

“Especially with COVID really impacting those with health conditions, it’s really vital that people keep healthy and keep moving, keep strong and keep eating right,” Bianco said. “I think it’s important that people do have some connection to a place that helps them do that, whether it’s virtual or in person.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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