JCCs reopening, but with a very different look

Checking temperatures at the New Orleans Jewish Community Center

After being closed since mid-March, the two locations of the New Orleans Jewish Community Center opened on May 26, while Birmingham’s Levite Jewish Community Center opens its doors on June 1. For members visiting either institution, there will be huge differences and it will take some time to adjust to the new procedures and policies in effect to combat the spread of coronavirus.

New Orleans JCC Executive Director Leslie Fischman said “this is new for us and new for fitness centers all over the world.”

“We’ve been working on a ‘responsible reopening’ plan since the day we closed,” said Samantha Dubrinsky, LJCC Executive Director. “Implementing a careful, considered approach to reopening is one important way that we’re serving our members.”

While the state guidelines allowed for reopening in mid-May, the LJCC waited an extra couple of weeks. “A delay provided the time we needed to properly equip our team and adjust our structure and facilities,” Dubrinsky said. “On June 1, our members will return to a familiar place with an adjusted experience, designed with expert guidance from infectious disease specialists.”

While there are many similarities between the two communities’ guidelines, there are some differences as well.

In both cities, many amenities will remain closed, including locker rooms. Everyone will have to reserve an activity in advance, and will be checked at the door. Because social distancing means capacity has been dramatically reduced, the JCCs will be open only to members, there will be no new memberships accepted for now, and in New Orleans, all visitors must be 18 or older.

Anyone who has a fever of 100.4 or higher, or feels sick in any way, should not go to a JCC building, nor should anyone considered to be high risk, as those who are asymptomatic can still spread the disease. All staff will undergo daily checks.

Changes at the LJCC

Because of limited capacity, members are asked to sign up for time slots in advance. A link will be emailed to members every Sunday.

For the first week, sign-ups will be available the evening of May 30 for J-Elite members, and May 31 for J-Plus and J-Classic members.

Only those on the roster will be allowed into the building, and anyone using the facilities acknowledges reading the Member Code of Conduct. To help maintain capacity controls, a one-time wristband will be given, corresponding to the room or area being used, so staff can know who is supposed to be where.

Those coming to the LJCC should bring their own water bottle and towel, as water fountains, vending machines and towel service will not be available. Bring a Ziploc bag for keys, membership card, cell phone and other personal items so they are in an enclosed environment. Also, restrooms are now one-at-a-time, so members are advised to go before they arrive.

A cloth face covering is required to enter the building. It must be worn when going through the building, but is not necessary when exercising or swimming — though many medical professionals have said wearing one during a workout is still safer. At the entrance, there are markings for six-foot distancing, and an LJCC Safety Ambassador will be taking temperatures and asking screening questions from the CDC. Members will then use hand sanitizer before entering the building.

No cash, cards or paper forms will be handled at the desk. Forms can be filled out electronically from home.

Those visiting fitness areas will be given a mini spray bottle and microfiber cloth to wipe down all areas touched before leaving. The LJCC Safety Patrol will also check to be sure equipment is as clean as possible. There will be cleaning logs displayed throughout the building, indicating when the most recent cleaning took place.

The fitness equipment is now spread out in the Group Fitness Studio and basketball gym, in addition to the fitness floor, and the indoor track will not be available due to distancing requirements. State guidelines mandate using as few fitness items as possible, so “super sets” and circuits are not advised, and members are limited to the equipment and locations they reserved. Every 50 minutes, the fitness areas will be closed for a thorough cleaning, in anticipation of the next group of members.

Personal training will be in the basketball gym, and trainers have been taught how to guide while social distancing.

By state mandate, locker rooms are closed, so anyone using a pool needs to already be in a swimsuit upon arrival. Social distancing is also in force in the pools, which have capacity controls and must be reserved in advance. Only those with an outdoor pool wristband will be allowed at the outdoor pool. Lounge chairs have been spaced six feet apart and are not to be moved, as the new arrangement allows for the highest possible capacity. The outdoor pool will close for cleaning every two hours, including the outdoor furniture.

The fitness center doors, which have been closed for security reasons, are now the only exit from the building. Spray bottles and microfiber towels can be deposited at the exit, and members are required to hand sanitize when exiting. There will be no lost-and-found for forgotten items.

Group fitness classes will remain virtual until further notice.

Changes at the New Orleans JCC

To visit the New Orleans JCC Uptown or in Metairie, one must be a member age 18 or older, and make a reservation in advance on the JCC website, due to capacity restrictions. Gold members can book an hour of fitness center time per day, gold and silver members can book 30 minutes of lap swimming per day.

Because of state mandates, the locker rooms are closed, except for restrooms, so one should already be in swim or workout clothes on arrival. Bring a sweat towel and water bottle, as those will not be available at the JCC.

Masks are required to enter and travel through the building, and are strongly encouraged when working out. There will be a temperature check at the entrance, and those with a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be admitted, nor will anyone exhibiting other symptoms of coronavirus.

The New Orleans JCC has posted a warning and disclaimer that the pandemic is ongoing, and the JCC “in no way warrants that COVID-19 infection will not occur through participation in our programs or accessing our facilities.” Those using the New Orleans facilities must sign a waiver, which can be printed out at home and signed.

After signing in, one should go straight to the reserved area. Nine members are permitted at a time in the Uptown cardio room, 14 in the weight room. In Metairie, the numbers are 12 members in cardio, eight in the weight room.

Only every other cardio machine is available at present, and while there is no signage on every other piece of equipment in the weights area, members are asked to ensure that there is an empty machine between members.

In the fitness areas, there are stations to pick up sanitizer spray bottles so equipment can be wiped down before and after use. Used bottles are then returned so the staff can properly prepare them for future use, and staff will do an additional cleaning after each use of equipment.

The Uptown personal training studio is limited to four members and four personal trainers, while in Metairie, the studio can handle just one member and trainer. The Uptown Pilates studio also is limited to one member and one trainer.

The lap pool Uptown has a maximum of six swimmers at a time, one per lane, and the Metairie pool has the same guidelines. The Uptown family pool, splash pad and indoor pool remain closed, along with the Kohlman Health Spa, the gym, group exercise studio, babysitting and library. The Uptown auditorium, Mind/Body studio, indoor cycling studio, older adult lounge and activity room, board room and youth activity center are all restricted, closed for general membership use.

In Metairie, the basketball court and indoor track remain closed, along with the outdoor splash pad, Bart Field, children’s game room, outdoor playgrounds and babysitting.

Fischman said “we are committed to keeping you as safe as possible,” and “we will continue learning as we go” and as governmental guidelines shift.