YMCAs across the Tri-State are a vital place for people to connect with each other and the community. Now the Y is also becoming a crucial connection point to get more people tested for and vaccinated against COVID-19.
“One of the things we're seeing is the YMCA,” said Kate Schroder with the Health Collaborative. “We have a real opportunity this summer to continue to get our vaccination rate up and also really establish a good, strong testing system that particularly for those who are not vaccinated so that we can monitor and as soon as the case appears that you're really making sure it's not spreading."
The Carl H. Lindner YMCA on Linn Street began offering a combination of COVID-19 testing and vaccinations on site this month. At a fair there last Saturday, people could get meals, play games, connect with community partners and get a COVID-19 shot. As a bonus, anyone who got a dose of the vaccine got free guest passes to the Y.
These types of fairs and incentives are what Jeff Saunders, vice president of experience for the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati, hopes will get members back into its facilities and keep them healthy.
"If you've ever been to the Y, it's not just about the workout,” Saunders said. “It's about the friends you come into contact with and this year hurt. We had to rip that apart. So, the only way we can get back to the Y of bringing people together and conquering things like depression, isolation is to get people safe through the vaccination and so we see this as a priority."
Saunders said this was made possible with grant money provided by the Y’s national office. It was easy to make vaccines and testing a priority, Saunders said, because it can get people back out again and into the Y facilities when it’s needed most.
"To see our friends isolated and struggling with deep things like depression and isolation and then we all know that we need each other,” Saunders said. “So the fact that we're starting to get this vaccination part taken care of and we're seeing the numbers go down, it’s just very exciting because our mission is coming alive again. Our branches are thriving right now. The people are coming back and it's really exciting for us to see."
The Campbell County YMCA will host a three-day fair Saturday, Sunday and next Wednesday in partnership with WildHealth out of Lexington. The plan is to vaccinate over 500 Kenton County students at this event.
Also on July 7 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. a fair including COVID-19 testing and vaccinations will take place at the Gamble-Nippert YMCA on Cincinnati's West Side.