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YMCAs: Reopening delay puts programs in jeopardy

YMCAs across the state, such as this one

YMCAs across the state, such as this one in Huntington, were taken by surprise that they cannot reopen with Phase 4, officials said. Credit: Danielle Silverman

YMCAs on Long Island and across the state were left scrambling this week in the wake of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement that gyms and certain recreational facilities will not be permitted to open with Phase 4.

The announcement, which upended a previous assumption that gyms on Long Island would be allowed to reopen July 8, came as a surprise. YMCAs here and around the state were already in the midst of reopening procedures, according to a statement from the Alliance of New York State YMCAs.

"This [means] putting a disruptive, and frankly, expensive halt to their reopening plans,” said Kyle Stewart, executive director of the alliance.  Cuomo's action "has put the viability of the nonprofit services we deliver to over 1.5 million New Yorkers in jeopardy."

There are eight YMCAs on Long Island, which offer health and fitness programs and facilities as well as summer day camps and inclusion programs. They house fitness centers and swimming pools and hold exercise classes.

“The news that our facilities cannot fully reopen presents another blow in a long series of extraordinary challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Anne N. Brigis, president and CEO of the YMCA of Long Island said in a statement. “The longer we’re closed, the more dismal the outlook is for our Y. More jobs will be lost, and fewer programs and services will be offered for our community.”

The YMCA gets much of its funding from its child care, health, fitness and aquatics memberships, which are on hold as its facilities stay closed.  Long Island locations have, though, been operating in a limited capacity since shuttering on March 16, offering emergency child care, virtual health and wellness programming, telehealth counseling services and, recently, summer day camp programs.

There’s no firm date when gym facilities will be allowed to reopen, since Phase 4 businesses are being divided into subgroups that will open gradually, over the course of a few weeks or, potentially, even months. Malls and movie theaters are also affected by the delay.

While closed, the state's 140 YMCA locations have renovated facilities and revamped cleaning protocols, in addition to redesigning spaces to allow for greater social distancing, Stewart said. They’ve also retrained their 35,000 employees statewide to deal with the threat of COVID-19.

“We strongly encourage Governor Cuomo to reconsider his assessment of YMCAs and allow us to get back to work, and back to building healthy communities across New York State," he said.

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