Dear Members and Community,
At the Y, we’re here for your health and to serve the community (especially in times of need), which means we’re working hard to keep our YMCA open and safe so our members and the community can pursue wellness in the short and long term. On Friday, a number of Federal to Local Officials announced new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. In addition, Lewis & Clark County announced our first confirmed case of COVID-19. Our senior staff is in constant contact with Y-USA, senior county health officials, and senior staff at St. Peter’s Health who are providing recommendations on actions we should consider as the status of the COVID-19 evolves in our community. We will work diligently to relay messages to the entire community as it becomes available. [UPDATE: As of Sunday, new guidance from the CDC recommends that in-person gatherings be limited to 50 people.]
Bottomline: We will remain open (with carefully considered decisions to mitigate risks to our community – see new measures listed below)):
- Unless we cannot meet staffing or participant minimums.
- Unless we run out of cleaning supplies and cannot ensure cleanliness.
- Unless we are mandated by governmental agencies.
Guided by our Mission and Values, the Helena Family YMCA (HFY) is supporting these new measures by immediately making the following changes:
- To reduce the risk to our most vulnerable COVID-19 populations,
- We are temporarily suspending morning group fitness and adult aquatics classes
- We are working diligently to accommodate those most impacted by this decision. We aim to be able to provide a digital alternative that will allow digital social connection as well as fitness alternatives.
- To reduce the risk of Social Spread caused by our programming
- We are temporarily postponing our floor hockey and volleyball leagues for 7 days (until 23 March 2020).
- We will reevaluate this decision on a weekly rolling basis based on the most current information we have from our local medical and public health officials.
- To ensure the safest possible environment, We are implementing new procedures so all HFY employees will complete a new health screening every day when reporting to the HFY.
- Any employee experiencing a persistent cough, fever, or shortness of breath will not be allowed to report to work until they have been symptom free for 72 hours.
Why we are making these decisions:
- What we’ve learned: The COVID-19 virus is not considered “robust” and thorough disinfecting using CDC guidelines and handwashing is effective at killing or removing the virus from surfaces.
- What we’ve learned: The most at risk from the severe effects of the virus are our Seniors, especially those with preexisting conditions related to respiratory illness.
- Therefore, we felt it MOST URGENT to take the greatest precautions to protect our Senior population.
- We are also limiting some group classes while also finding balance in keeping the facility open to support individual fitness, health and wellness pursuits.
- What we’ve learned: Can someone spread the virus without being sick? People are thought to be most contagious when they are symptomatic (the sickest). However, some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with the new virus, this this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
- Therefore, Social Distancing is the driving factor in postponing sports league programs. We felt our ability to guarantee adequate social distancing in the gymnasium, during this early phase of the introduction of the COVID-19 virus, was not adequate during our sports league practices and games.
- We will continue with other programs like swim lessons because there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted in pools and it has not demonstrated the ability to survive in chlorinated pools. In addition, the number of parents are small enough given the space that they can remain adequately separated.
- We will rigorously and frequently stay connected to local professional health officials and lessons from hundreds of YMCAs across the United States who are working diligently to best serve their community and do so in the safest way possible. We will always put the safety of the community first.
- As updates and best practices come in, we will implement adjustments to these decisions.
- HFY members, members of the community, and our guests who exhibit a persistent cough, fever (at or above 100.4o, or shortness of breath may be asked by a HFY supervisor to seek appropriate care and stay home until they have been symptom free for 72 hours.
- All HFY work sites are required to employ social distancing practices, provide handwashing in facilities, and follow environmental cleaning guidelines.
- We will also Increase cleaning in high traffic program spaces, with new cleaning supplies, every two hours including locker rooms, restrooms, lobby areas, and door handles. In addition, we have increased cleaning frequency in our family program, community spaces and fitness areas.
NEW REQUIRED ACTION: Illness-Related Symptoms
For Staff: Effective immediately, based on guidance from the Lewis & Clark County Public Health, anyone experiencing a persistent cough, a fever over 100.4 degrees, or shortness of breath/difficulty breathing must stay home until symptom free for 72 hours.
For Members, Community, and Guests: Effective immediately, based on guidance from Lewis & Clark County Public Health, HFY members, participants, or guests that have a persistent cough, a fever over 100.4 degrees, or shortness of breath/difficulty breathing MUST stay home until symptom free for 72 hours. If a member, participant, or guest appears to be exhibiting symptoms please notify a supervisor on duty immediately, who will then engage the individual, ensure that they are ok, ask that they go home and seek appropriate care, and provide further guidance and instructions.
NEW REQUIRED ACTION: Social Distancing Precautions
To align with social distancing precautions, we are working to maximize our spaces and minimize unnecessary contact. These measures may include limiting the number of members and staff in close spaces in our facilities. It may also be necessary to limit the number of people using exercise equipment, participating in group exercise programs, and/or engaging in youth sports to allow for appropriate distancing. We appreciate your recognizing that our members Y experience may look and feel a little different, and we appreciate you supporting them as we navigate through this dynamic situation together with the safety and health of community as our priority.
Updated and Existing Protocols Will Continue
- Additional Rounds of Disinfection for all common areas including locker room lockers, countertops, sinks, faucets, stall handles and flushing devices, coffee areas, lobby tables and desktops, door handles throughout the building, fitness equipment.
- Improved Sanitation Stations are available in of our facilities and additional resources will be made available as soon as supplies arrive.
- Additional Signage and Messaging to encourage all members and staff to follow hygiene best practices.
- Instructors and Staff reminding and encouraging members to clean equipment/machines before and after use;
What we plan to do in event of a local outbreak with mandatory shutdowns:
- We will continue to evaluate programs and classes and determine the best course of action.
- While no one can predict with certainty whether Helena will be severely impacted by coronavirus; we are monitoring the situation and preparing for the possibility that our daily program and work routines will be temporarily impacted if the situation significantly worsens. We will keep everyone updated with information as it develops.
Additional everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like coronavirus, include:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick until you’ve been symptom free for 72 hours.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
If you or a loved one are experiencing flu-like symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, stay home, rest and contact your medical provider. Additionally, we encourage you to regularly check the CDC’s website for important updates and safety information.
Hand washing remains the most effective method of preventing the spread of germs, including COVID-19. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
It is especially important that all staff lead by example and frequently wash our hands (primary) and use antibacterial hand sanitizer (when soap is not available), and that we encourage our community to do the same.
Ideas, Suggestions, and Questions
We are continuing to challenge ourselves to find more ways to support our staff, members and the community. Your input, suggestions, ideas and questions are welcomed at [email protected]