Leaders of the YMCA of the Olympic Peninsula announced a plan earlier this month to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test to use the facilities from January.
YMCA officials informed members and program attendees in Port Angeles, Sequim, and Jefferson County via a December 3 email and through facility posts.
“By doing our part to slow the spread of COVID-19, we are protecting everyone who comes to the YMCA, especially those whose health is compromised,” said Wendy Bart, CEO of the YMCA of the Olympic Peninsula, in a statement. hurry.
“Many YMCA members and program participants have let us know that they will support this effort to protect everyone who uses our facilities.”
She added that the top priority of the YMCA is “the health and safety of our members, staff and the community.”
Under this requirement, participants aged 12 and over must show proof of complete COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in order to use YMCA facilities. .
The test must show a negative result three days before the visit, YMCA staff said.
Bart said their leaders made the decision to require vaccines because of the high case rates between the two counties keeping the community in the high-risk category for months, and because of growing concern about a wave winter case and the new Omicron variant.
YMCA officials have said that those who choose not to be vaccinated or tested, can use virtual fitness options through the clubs, or they can suspend their membership until they are fully vaccinated or until they are fully vaccinated. that the requirement be lifted.
Medical and / or religious accommodations will not be available to members and participants, YMCA staff said.
All club visitors aged 5 and over must also wear a mask indoors, under Washington public health requirements, they added.
Due to state guidelines designed to contain the coronavirus, the YMCA gymnastics facilities in Port Angeles and Sequim and the Jefferson County branch closed in mid-November 2020 and reopened in mid-January 2021 in accordance with Healthy Washington Phase 1 guidelines.
Membership numbers between clubs are now around half of what they were before the pandemic, Bart said.
“We have received federal loans and received grants to support many programs that we offered to the community during the pandemic,” she said.
“These programs included regular check-ups with senior members to address social isolation, online training sessions to keep members active, and emergency child care services to families of first responders and workers.” essential. “
The clubs have also provided nearly 75,000 meals to prevent hunger in children over the past two years, Bart added.
Bart said by email that local management staff and the YMCA board of directors have discussed the requirement for proof of vaccination in recent months.
“We have heard from many YMCA members and participants who have said they will support this decision,” she said.
To prepare for possible negative reactions, staff attended two de-escalation training sessions provided by local law enforcement.
“We wanted our staff to have the tools to feel confident talking to people who didn’t agree with this decision,” Bart said.
“We also made sure that we had an efficient system to verify once members provided us with their proof of vaccination. “
YMCAs make decisions at the local level, such as requiring proof of vaccination, Bart said, as hundreds of clubs face varying public health demands based on the level of risk, tenure and more of their community.
For more information on YMCA vaccine requirements, visit olympicpeninsulaymca.org/reopening. For more information on the program and membership, call the YMCA of Sequim at 360-477-4381, the YMCA of Port Angeles at 360-452-9244 and the YMCA of Jefferson County at (360) 385-5811 .
Editor’s Note: Terry Ward, publisher of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Olympic Peninsula YMCA. – MD