Don Herres of Clearfield YMCA

Pictured is CEO Don Herres of the Clearfield YMCA inside the YMCA’s sanitized fitness center. The YMCA has implemented new protocols during the pandemic to minimize the risk to the community and staff.

CLEARFIELD — The Clearfield YMCA has adapted to keep its doors open while keeping its members, the community and its staff safe during the pandemic, according to CEO Don Herres of the Clearfield YMCA.

Due to the pandemic, the YMCA canceled several popular events such as the annual Christmas Parade in downtown Clearfield, the annual YMCA WinterFest at Parker Dam and has closed its doors when fitness centers and gyms were ordered to close by Gov. Tom Wolf.

"The last thing we would want is for someone to get sick attending one of our programs," Herres said.

When it reopened its doors this summer, the YMCA implemented new protocols for employees and members as well as an intensive program where it sanitizes its facilities twice a day. And to perform the sanitization and cleaning it closes its doors every day from 1:30-3 p.m.

To sanitize its facilities, the YMCA purchased an electrostatic sanitization gun from Clearfield Wholesale Paper to spray down all of its equipment.

The sanitization gun sprays a very fine electrically-charged mist through the air. The disinfectant clings to materials more readily and better sanitizes than regular cleaners, Herres said.

It also is better at cleaning hard to reach areas and crevices.

"We try to keep our facilities sanitized as much as possible for our members as they utilize the facilities," Herres said.

During the pandemic the YMCA is restricting access to members only and all who enter the building have their temperature taken beforehand.

All employees are required to wear masks and members are asked to wear masks when appropriate.

Plexiglass barriers were put up around the front desk in the lobby to protect members and staff.

The YMCA used to use a numeric keypad for members to gain access to the facility. Now members tell the front desk receptionist what their code number is to limit the touching of surfaces, Herres said.

At the start of their shifts, all staff members have to answer a series of questions to make sure they aren't exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19.

The YMCA has also placed signage throughout the facility reminding members to wear masks when appropriate, such as when social distancing is not possible, to wash hands, maintain social distancing of six feet and to sanitize any surfaces they touch both before and after.

Each member is given their own personal sanitation cloth when they enter the YMCA, and spray bottles containing hospital-grade sanitization agents are placed throughout the facility and members are asked to sanitize and clean all surfaces and equipment before and after use, Herres said. 

In the fitness center, the YMCA has closed every other cardio machine to provide adequate social distancing between the machines.

The YMCA's large gymnasium was kept closed for a time even after the YMCA was allowed to reopen, but the gymnasium has since reopened, Herres said. But the YMCA no longer gives out any equipment from the gymnasium like basketballs to limit contamination and the spread of the virus.

"People can come in and shoot baskets but they have to bring their own basketball with them," Herres said.

For their group exercise classes, the YMCA placed "X" marks on the floor to mark where people are to stand and these "X's" give people nine feet of social distancing, three more than required by the CDC, Herres said.

He said the YMCA is able to do this because it has so much space in its gymnasium.

The YMCA currently only has its youth sports programs running and they are following the same protocol that school-based sports follow such as limits on spectators, etc.

For swim meets, teams no longer travel, instead they compete at their own pools and compare times to determine the winner, Herres said.

And Herres said the YMCA is planning on restarting its adult basketball league sometime in mid-February.

The YMCA has not yet reopened its saunas because of the close contact inside the saunas.

"Rather than take a chance we decided we completely shut down the saunas," Herres said.

Same with the climbing wall because it would be too difficult for the YMCA to clean and sanitize the hundreds of handholds on the climbing wall.

The locker rooms are open but like everywhere else in the building, members are asked to sanitize all surfaces they touch both before and after use.

And the locker room restrooms have touch free fixtures for sinks, toilets, soap and towel dispensers, Herres said.

So far the new protocols appear to be working, Herres said. None of the YMCA's employees have yet to contract COVID-19 and they have not been informed of any members contracting the virus at the YMCA.

Herres said the YMCA's membership has declined due to the pandemic but most who have left said said they would be willing to rejoin once they are comfortable.

"We are looking forward to that day when everything returns to normal," Herres said.

He called the YMCA a true melting pot for it serves all areas of the community. He said the YMCA has scholarships for those who cannot afford memberships, and it has numerous programs for youth, adults and senior citizens in addition to its fitness facilities.

"It's wonderful because we can all come together and we learn a little more about each other as well, Herres said. 

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