Seniors again waiting for safe reopen from COVID-19

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 2, 2022

Groundbreaking on new building expected in 1st quarter of 2022

CHESAPEAKE — With the two-year-anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic coming in March, it has been just as long since members of the Sybene-Chesapeake Senior Center were able to have activities, meet and go on with business as usual.

The center closed in March 2020, as health orders shut down most of the state and prevented mass gatherings.

And it remained that way at the center for more than a year.

With vaccinations being implemented in early 2020 and cases dropping, they were able to briefly reopen this year and begin holding events, such as the monthly community meals at First Baptist Church in Proctorville.

But that was short lived and, as the Delta variant spread and cases began rising again, the center closed for the second time in July.

“And we’re still closed,” Greene said on Wednesday. “I just can’t take the risk.”

While there is no order in place from the state closing the facility, Greene said they have opted to do so, as their current home, a modular unit next to the Chesapeake Community Center, is too small to accommodate safe distancing.

“With 40 of us, it wouldn’t be good,” she said. “We would just be so close to each other.”

In addition to events at the center, the seniors also had to cancel their annual Senior Day at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds for both 2020 and 2021, an event, featuring vendors, food and entertainment, which typically draws hundreds to the fairgrounds.

Following the July closure of the center, Greene said they tried to have outdoor meetings, but the weather was too hot in late summer and finding a location with amenities was difficult.

In the meantime, the seniors are keeping in touch via social media and Greene said they recently distributed holiday fruit baskets to members via a drive thru event.

The center has been approved for a new building, set for the Lawrence County Fairgrounds, for which the Ohio Legislature has appropriated funding, but construction has not started.

“If I had a bigger building, I could do it,” Greene said of reopening.

Lawrence County Commission President DeAnna Holliday said they anticipate groundbreaking on the new center in the next three months.

She said that Ohio University was the pass-through for the $1 million allocated by the Legislature and that the county is working to meet the protocols used by the university to release the funding.

“We are in the final stage,” Holliday said.

She said COVID-19 has also impacted the process, with many working from home.

“There are so many people involved and that has happened,” she said.