These past six months of pandemic living have been a struggle to say the least. Like the rest of us, the YMCA of Greater Houston is doing its best to manage during these strange times, even though there’s been some disorganization and confusing messaging from the local Christian charity and wellness center operator along the way.
Back on September 8, members at the Tellepsen Y in downtown Houston who had rented lockers were abruptly notified via email that the local gym “is no longer renting lockers,” and were asked to come grab their stuff and take their locks home by the end of the month.
When we reached out to the YMCA of Greater Houston about the new locker policy, a PR rep sent over a statement from an unnamed VP at the Tellepsen Y, who was quoted as saying that as of September 8, “lockers will now be day use only at this time so they can be cleaned throughout the day.” The statement also said that members who had rented lockers have received refunds.
The Houston Press requested to be put in touch with someone from the YMCA of Greater Houston leadership team to ask some more questions about how its facilities have shifted operations due to COVID-19, but we never heard back after multiple follow-up outreach attempts.
That reminded us of another story we heard from one local YMCA member who went to the Tellepsen Y one September afternoon to empty out his locker as requested. There was one person on the front desk who told him the facility was closed. He explained he was there as instructed. The front desk person took his temperature and granted him access to the locker room. When he came back through and tried to give her his locker number she said it didn't matter.
After the local YMCA closed most of its facilities in the spring due to the coronavirus, it reopened several of its neighborhood wellness centers on June 1 after Gov. Greg Abbott allowed Texas gyms to accept patrons at limited capacity in mid-May.
While its gyms were shut down, YMCA of Greater Houston started sharing workout videos on its YouTube channel that featured YMCA fitness trainers guiding viewers through virtual at-home exercise routines. Even after gyms were allowed to reopen, the local YMCA kept posting virtual workout videos online, and is still uploading new ones on a regular basis.
In the first few months after reopening, reservations were required to use YMCA weight rooms and cardio equipment, and temperature checks were required for all visitors. Starting September 28, the local YMCA loosened some of those restrictions based “on guidelines put forth by the Governor as well as recommendations by the CDC and local officials” according to an update posted to YMCAHouston.org.
As of Monday, reservations are no longer required to use YMCA gym equipment, but members will still have to make reservations for group exercise classes, swimming pools and the Y’s Child Watch childcare services. Social distancing will still be enforced which means some gym equipment might not be available, and the gyms have bumped their occupancy limit up to 75 percent as allowed by the new reopening guidelines Abbott put out two weeks ago.
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Masks are still required “in common areas, locker rooms, hallways and when not engaged in indoor exercise,” as well as for kids ages 10 and up in the Child Watch program.
Temperature checks have also been rolled back, and are now only required at Child Watch and at Y Learning Centers. These learning centers are a new pandemic-inspired YMCA of Greater Houston offering that started in August. Working parents can pay to drop their kids off at a learning center during the school day, where they’ll be supervised by YMCA staff as they go about taking their virtual classes.
The YMCA of Greater Houston website says that restrooms, the newly restricted locker rooms and “commonly touched surfaces” will be cleaned and disinfected “at least every two hours,” and that extra hand sanitizing stations have been dispersed throughout Y facilities across town.
Not all local YMCA facilities and programs are back up and running at this point — a full list of which locations are open along with operating hours can be found at the YMCA of Greater Houston’s website.