By Mitch Spinell
TUSCARAWAS COUNTY, Ohio - The Tuscarawas County Senior Center announced on Thursday it will reopen all six of its Senior Centers across Tuscarawas County on Monday, April 5.
As part of Phase 1 of the senior centers' reopening, the centers in Dover, Mineral City, Newcomerstown, Sugarcreek, Uhrichsville, and Westchester will initially allow 50% capacity to adhere to the current Ohio Department of Health Senior Center order that was effective September 21, 2020.
According to a press release, all COVID-19 precautions will continue to be observed, such as wearing masks while on-premises, scheduling appointments to utilize the gym and walking track at the Dover site, playing cards, and BINGO. The Dover site, located on 425 Prospect Avenue, will also begin serving breakfast in the Myron Phillips Banquet Center on Fridays beginning April 16 from 8:00 am-9:30 am. The Happy Day’s Café will open on Monday, April 12 from 10:30 am-1:00 pm and operate Monday through Friday.
“The pandemic has truly created a hardship for many of our seniors who depend upon our centers for their daily dose of socialization," expressed Tuscarawas County Senior Center Executive Director Jamie L. Smith via the press release. "The closure of the centers has only increased the isolation of our seniors and we know that seniors are more productive and active when they are able to socialize with others. We are excited to see our friends back in the buildings and we will try to create our new normal.”
Additional activities will be opened in Phase 2 as of July 6, 2021. Capacity requirements will increase to 75% of fire code with possible social distancing and mask requirements continuing. No one will be permitted to enter the buildings if they are not feeling well or experiencing any of the following symptoms; fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, headache, loss of smell or taste, sore throat, or muscle pain. All visitors and staff will be required to wear a mask at all times, and all activities will be by appointment only, as ‘drop-ins’ will not be permitted, and socially distant activities will be required.
Tuscarawas County was relegated from Level 3 Red to Level 2 Orange last Thursday on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, after the county's active case rate per 100,000 people dropped below the Centers for Disease Control's high incidence threshold of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since October 22, 2020. "Under the current order, we are also required as a staff to do mandatory COVID testing," Smith added. "So, as part of that, next week, our entire staff will be going through COVID testing in order to open our doors on April 5."
“Our goal is to open slowly while protecting our staff and our members which is our highest priority,” Smith said in the press release. "If at any time Tuscarawas County downgrades to Red or [Level 4 Purple] on the Risk Scale by ODH, the Senior Center doors across the county will be closed to the public until Orange is achieved."
Smith also added the following after confirming the senior center's plan for if Ohio surpassed Red or Purple levels: "We are hoping that a new senior center order coming [sic] down from the Governor's office anytime with new stipulations, so their requirements for us opening may get a little less...constricted, I guess, once that new order comes about, so we'll see, we'll see what happens."
When asked if a potential future lifting of the statewide mask mandate would impact the Senior Center's decision on mask-wearing, Smith added, "We'll follow whatever order comes down, but it will be a board decision if we take away mandating masks."