June 18th, 2021

YMCA locations return to (near) full swing Thursday

By KELLEN TANIGUCHI on June 10, 2021.

ktaniguchi@medicinehatnews.com@@kellentaniguchi

With the province entering Stage 2 of its Open for Summer Plan on Thursday, the YMCA in Medicine Hat is preparing for big changes.

The loosening of restrictions includes gyms and fitness studios allowed to open for solo and drop-in activities and indoor fitness classes with three-metre distancing, and youth activities, such as day camps, can resume with certain restrictions.

The two YMCA branches in the Hat were closed Wednesday but as of Thursday, every area of the building will be open, says Sharon Hayward, CEO of the downtown YMCA branch.

“We’re very much excited. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen our members and we miss them. So, we’re happy that they’re able to get back and working on their health and wellness,” said Hayward.

Hayward says they will be operating with capacity limits and there will still be COVID-19 safety measures in place. She says masking is still required, hand sanitizer is available when you enter the building, as well as a COVID screening form. She says visitors are expected to disinfect equipment before and after use, practice physical distancing at all times and staff will disinfect high-touch areas on a regular basis.

With a limited capacity per area of the building, Hayward says drop-ins are OK but she recommends members continue to schedule a time online. If you drop-in and an area is at capacity, you will have to wait.

Hayward says the employment centre is also returning to walk-in traffic.

“We’re excited that our employment centres can now return to walk-in people and traffic, so no longer is it appointment only, and the doors will be open so we encourage folks to stop by and see what they have to offer.”

In Stage 1 of the re-opening plan, only the YMCA’s licensed day camps were allowed to run and Hayward says they will start in July. However, Hatters can now sign kids up for unlicensed day camps at the YMCA under Stage 2 restrictions. The non-licensed camps will give people more options, as the licensed camps have been booked quickly.

“My understanding is that those are full, or very close to full,” she said. ” … but with stage two opening it also allowed us to continue offering our non-licensed academy programs. So, we’ve got full-day options and we’ve got half-day options, and the half-day options focus more specifically on sports skills and drills, so we think that will be really fun for the kids.”

Hayward says there are still capacity limits on camps, but when the province hits Stage 3 of its reopening plan, Hayward says she anticipates those will be lifted and more day camp spaces will become available this summer.

Day camps are scheduled to run July 5 through Aug. 27.

Hayward is cautiously optimistic, and the YMCA is prepared for a Stage 3 reopening, but for now it’s nice to have people back in the buildings.

“We’re really happy to welcome our members back and we really have to thank them for the loyalty that they’ve shown in sticking with us over the last – it’s been over a year now. We really appreciate when people choose to support the YMCA, because they’re supporting a charity and that membership makes a difference in the community and allows us to offer all these cool programs, like day camps for kids,” said Hayward.

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