Kathleen Walsh, President and CEO of the YMCA of Metro North association, has issued the following statement informing the public about enhanced safety policies at YMCA branches in Lynn, Melrose, Peabody, Saugus, and Stoneham.

As exhausting as the past year has been, we need to push harder. Our health care workers, emergency response personnel, child care staff, teachers, and grocery store clerks have been on the frontlines since day one and they need our help more than ever.

The Y will stay open during the holidays with enhanced safety policies and protocols in place. As the number of new coronavirus cases rise and outdoor spaces are closing, the state has issued new guidance so gyms and health facilities can operate as safely as possible for our members.

Among the new curfews and capacity limits are stricter requirements to wear a mask inside and in public, regardless of distance from others. These limits include at the gym and the Y will do our part to follow the public health recommendations to stop the spread.

Our routines have certainly not been normal, but we adapted. Now, we need to do a bit more to enhance safety for others. Beginning Sunday, everyone needs to wear a mask while working out at the Y. Whether you are dancing to AquaEx in the pool, lifting weights, on the cardio equipment, in a group fitness class, or you are a Y staff member in your office…you need to wear a mask. Put another way, unless you are submerged in the water while you are actively swimming, a mask should cover your face. No exceptions.

Masks have been required at the Y from our reopening. We’ve installed plexiglass shields between equipment, set social distancing markers, reduced capacity, required reservations, and offered virtual fitness options. Our members have raved about how safe they feel coming into our facilities and showed appreciation for the amount of time and resources we spent getting our reopening right.  We’ve learned a lot in the past several months, and while we’ve had a few bumps along the way, I believe the Y is one of the safest facilities in the area.

But we can’t let our guard down now, not when we are so close to the finish line.

At the gym, most of us go to push our limits: bench press that last weight, swim those extra laps, lean more deeply into a Yoga pose, and run further and faster. The exertion is exhausting but worth the effort to improve our health. We are all facing pandemic fatigue, but we are being called on to test our endurance even further and mask up. Wearing our masks at all times is the only tool we have right now to keep each other safe so gyms can remain open, so our economy can remain open, and we can conduct business as usual under our new normal.

Not everyone will agree with these new policies. In the long-run, however, people will adjust and respect our efforts to keep each other safe.  What I think about most often is that while wearing a mask might be a mild inconvenience or an extra level of exertion, it could be a matter of life and death to others around us.

So, we are asking all our members to help us all stay in the race and reach the finish line together. #MaskUpMA #MaskUpMetroNorth