Upper Arlington eyes Oct. 5 reopening date for senior center

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group

City officials are hopeful they can iron out the details for testing staff and patrons of the Upper Arlington Senior Center in time to open the facility Oct. 5.   

As part of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s and the Ohio Department of Health’s “Responsible RestartOhio” initiative, senior centers and adult day care centers around the state were permitted to reopen Sept. 21, but the facilities must follow a number of new guidelines, including:   

COVID-19 coronavirus illustration

• Opening with a limited capacity based on safe social distancing 

• Limiting entry to those who are necessary for the safe operation of programs 

• Screening all participants and staff and keeping a daily log 

• Conducting baseline and repeat testing of staff and participants 

• Requiring all staff and participants to wear face coverings, with limited exceptions 

• Using cohorting of participants when possible and altering schedules to reduce contac 

• Implementing CDC guidance for cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing 

The Upper Arlington Senior Center, 1945 Ridgeview Road, has been closed since March 14 in accordance with a state order to close senior centers and adult day care centers due to COVID-19 concerns.  

Debbie McLaughlin, Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation director, said the city is poised to reopen the facility as soon as it can do so in compliance with the state’s guidelines.   

“We’re trying to get clarification on what the state’s requirements are when it comes to COVID testing of our employees and customers,” McLaughlin said. “We don’t have the answers on either yet. Outside of that, we pretty much have our operational plan.”   

According to McLaughlin, the senior center has four full-time employees and four part-time staffers.   

She said the center typically has more than 2,000 members each year.   

City recreation superintendent Matt Leber said that prior to the pandemic-induced shutdown, the senior center averaged 225 visitors per day.   

“That’s for people going to various programs that we had at the center each day,” he said.   

McLaughlin said once the center is reopened, it likely would be operated similarly to how the city ran its swimming pools this summer.   

Patrons will reserve blocks of time for activities they wnt to take part in.   

She noted there likely will be a maximum of 10 people permitted in the fitness room and other classrooms at one time.   

“We’ll be looking at having reservations for our time blocks,” she said. “We can only have so many people in our facility at one time. We’re also planning to space out our equipment so people can socially distance and we will clean rooms between time blocks.”   

Leber said the “No. 1 priority” upon reopening the facility will be employee and customer safety. Therefore, staff will strictly follow state guidelines.   

“We will open the facility when we are comfortable we have policies and procedures in place to safely open the center,” he said. “We’re just trying to determine what exactly the requirements are from the Ohio Department of Health and how we can meet those requirements.”   

McLaughlin said she realizes the social aspects the senior center traditionally has offered will continue to be quelled until a coronavirus vaccine has been found or state health officials determine it’s safe to return to normal activities.   

But she said that throughout the pandemic, the senior center has offered a number of virtual activities in an attempt to provide fitness and social recreation to members.   

“We have had many senior programs happen via Zoom (video conferencing),” McLaughlin said. “We’ve even had fitness classes happen in a virtual setting and we’ve actually been able to serve more people that way.   

“We can do some socialization on Zoom, but it is limited,” she said. “We do hope to resume offering some of our programs that fulfill socialization activities because we do realize that’s a big part of why people are members.”   

nellis@thisweeknews.com  

@ThisWeekNate