May 28—FAIRMONT — Three of the area senior centers will welcome back seniors on June 1 after being shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marion County Senior Citizens will reopen locations in Fairmont, Mannington and Fairview and will conduct sanitizing throughout the day.
"If they're coming to eat lunch that's the people that they'll be exposed to," said Debbie Harvey, executive director of the Marion County Senior Citizens Inc.
Those entering the Fairmont location for lunch and group activities in the dining hall will enter through the front single door off the main parking lot.
Upon entry, each person will proceed up the steps ensuring that no one is coming down the steps in order to maintain social distancing. Everyone will have their temperature taken and logged by a senior center employee prior to entering the dining hall. For those seniors have mobility challenges, the upper entrance ramp will be available.
"They're wanting us to limit, that way if there is an outbreak it's been limited exposure, so we're still being cautious just to be on the safe side," Harvey said.
She said people are starting to have more freedom now, and she doesn't want to see them lose the freedom by not having these more cautious measures in place. The centers have been closed since last year.
"I'm very excited and I think the seniors are too because we've been getting several phone calls since we've been advertising our reopening next week," Harvey said.
She said she thinks the seniors are excited to see each other. She said a lot of the people do not drive and haven't had the opportunity to see each other since the centers shut down over a year ago.
"I think they're excited to come back and socialize with their friends that they miss. We're excited," Harvey said.
In a newsletter that went out a few months ago, Harvey stated that "the building missed the seniors" and how quiet it's been since they haven't been able to come to the center. There was no laughter and no seniors coming in each day.
"We had reopening plans last year that we never got to utilize. We just had to tweak them with new information that's come out over the last year," Harvey said.
Once the reopening plan was altered and the board of directors approved it, the center would be allowed to open and a date was selected.
"Our board meeting was Tuesday so I thought I would wait until after the holiday so that's the date I proposed to the board to open up on June the first so the board had no problems with that," Harvey said.
All the reopening policies can be found on the center's website so people will know what the restrictions will be.
"If you're not vaccinated you will have to wear a mask until June 20. Once June 20 gets here then we're going to follow the statewide procedure that the masks are off," Harvey said.
Masks will still have to be worn while using transportation after June 20, according to Harvey. Social distancing will also still be practiced until the health departments gives the OK that it's no longer needed.
Lunch tables will be distanced and activities where social distancing can not be achieved will not be held.
The center is also in desperate need of personal care attendants. There are over 100 seniors on a waitlist who need services. Prospective employees must have the ability to work at least 27 hours per week and be dependable and have their have own transportation. The starting rate of pay is $10.25 an hour.
Donna Alley, assistant executive director. said it's going to be very exciting to get the ball rolling on opening back up given nobody has been at the center for 14 months.
"We're used to seeing their faces Monday through Friday and it's been kind of boring," Alley said.
She said right now, congregate meals will be available as well as grab and go meals if guests do not feel safe.
"They can come into the exercise room. We're allowing two people at a time in the exercise room other than that we're not starting anything until we see how things are going and make sure that we don't have any outbreaks or anything," Alley said.
Alley said each day the center will have to keep track of the people who come into the building in case an outbreak were to happen. She said the picnic is scheduled for July where everyone can come to the Mannington center and eat outside at the pavilion.
"It's been two years since we've had a picnic. We're still providing transportation for everybody to their medical appointments so they just need to call in and ask," Alley said.
For more information please call 304-366-8779.
Reach Sarah Marino at 304-367-2549