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Cass County COA to reopen fitness center, select programs March 1

DOWAGIAC — One Cass County organization will soon be opening its doors.

The Cass County Council on Aging announced it will be reopening its Cassopolis and Dowagiac locations to the public on Monday, March 1, along with some of its programs and services that have been temporarily shut down since mid-November.

“It’s a different atmosphere when people are here in the buildings,” said COA CEO Marty Heirty. “We’re looking forward to having people back, and I know the seniors are excited to be getting back into a routine.”

Among the services that will be reopening are the COA’s fitness centers that have been closed since March 2020.

The organization will be adhering to the guidelines set by the CDC, the State of Michigan, and the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department.

Guidelines include:

  • Health screening upon entering the building – questionnaire and temperature check.
  • All participants must sign a COVID-19 waiver and have an updated COA registration. completed with required fields: Full name, birthdate, address, phone number and emergency contact.
  • Masks must be worn at all times in the fitness center as well as throughout both COA facilities.
  • Every participant will be supplied with a clean bottle of equipment spray sanitizer and is asked to fully sanitize the equipment before and after each use for their safety.
  • Additional sanitizing will be done by staff between fitness appointments.

In addition, all work-out appointments will be made on the hour beginning at 7 a.m. and the last one starting at 2 p.m., with workout appointments limited to 45 minutes. Participants can call up to 24 hours in advance to set their appointments.

According to Heirty, the gym portions of the fitness centers will be limited to 25 percent occupancy, meaning five at a time in Cassopolis and two in Dowagiac.

Even with the restrictions in place, COA Director of Community Development Kelli Casey said that clients are excited to be able to get their workouts in.

“They’re ecstatic,” she said. “We already have times booked up. It is a very social time for them. They’re ready for Monday.”

In-person fitness classes will remain closed due to occupancy restrictions. Classes will remain on Zoom due to their popularity on the platform, Heirty said.

In addition to the fitness centers, the COA will also reopen clubs and activities such as quilting and knitting and crocheting. Some popular clubs, such as euchre, are still on the shelf until the COA deems the activities safe.

“We went through all activities,” Hearty said. “What can we do safely and keep people apart? Unfortunately, some of the popular things like Euchre are on hold since it involves sharing cards throughout the game. We’re not sure it’s safe yet.”

The pandemic has kept the COA in a state of flux for almost a full year now. Heirty hopes the COA will remain open going forward and that the situation improves enough to ease restrictions over time.

“We’re excited,” he said. “We’ve been on this roller coaster of opening and closing for so long. We’re still cautious but I think things are getting better and better. The roller coaster has been really hard on us. Hopefully, the programs are here to stay. As things get better, we’ll be able to open up some more programs. “

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