The Naples Senior Center was hoping to reopen at full capacity this fall, but with the rise in COVID-19 cases, that goal looked less achievable by the day.
The planned reopening means a lot to staff and older adults alike. The pandemic made it clear how important it is for seniors to have a sense of community. The President and CEO of the Naples Senior Center, Jacclynn Faffer, believes that loneliness and isolation can be just a deadly as COVID-19 itself.
Those difficult circumstances made Monday’s reopening that much more exciting.
Signs and balloons greeted seniors as they walked through the center’s doors for the first time since March of 2020.
But the mask requirement, temperature checks, and glass barriers serve as a not-so-subtle reminder that the pandemic is not over.
“I’ve run into people in Publix who said, ‘when are you opening?’ ‘When are you opening?’ And you know it’s with tempered enthusiasm that we open our doors today,” Faffer said.
She said the center is open to just 30% capacity and estimates that at least 95% of the seniors there are vaccinated. The center also requires that all employees and volunteers be vaccinated.
Jim Sernovitz is one of those volunteers. He runs the drum circle. “We couldn’t wait to get vaccinated,” said Sernovitz. “I wanted to get this going again so bad I said ‘can we do it outside in the parking lot?’ they said ‘no.'”
Diane Goldstein says she worries that with cases rising, the excitement surrounding this reopening could be short-lived.
“I’m very concerned,” said Goldstein. “And I hope it does not delay or postpone the opening of the senior center and the continuation of being able to be together. We’re just gonna have to be very careful.”
When asked if she worried about an outbreak at the center, Faffer said, “Constantly. I’d be foolish if I didn’t say that … And should there, God forbid, be an outbreak; we would close our doors. We will err on the side of caution always.”
For the time being, no one is allowed to linger at the center once they are finished with a class or activity; they must leave.