The Keene Family YMCA said Thursday that it will require COVID-19 vaccination for employees and volunteers and will reinstate its indoor mask policy.
The announcement follows other major organizations with a local presence — like Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, which includes Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, and Genesis Healthcare, which operates several area nursing homes — implementing their own immunization mandates this week.
A news release from the Keene Y says the new policy is effective immediately, and CEO Dan Smith said Friday morning that employees and volunteers have until Oct. 3 to fulfill the requirement. The Y has more than 160 employees in Keene, as well as about 10 volunteers at the facility a week, Smith added.
Currently, more than 90 percent of the Keene Y’s staff and volunteers have been vaccinated against COVID-19, Smith said. Workers can request an exemption from the requirement for medical or religious reasons.
“This was not a decision we came to lightly,” Smith said in Thursday’s announcement. “... We believe this is an integral step towards keeping our members, staff, volunteers and guests safe and healthy.”
The news release notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved Cheshire County’s transmission rate Thursday from “moderate” to “substantial,” meaning the county had a rate of 50 to 100 new cases per 100,000 people (about 64 cases) in the past seven days.
The Y’s announcement comes as cases of the highly contagious delta variant continue to surge nationwide. The variant is more transmissible than the other variants of the virus, and once someone is infected, more of the virus is produced, according to health experts.
The Y’s facility on Summit Road is also reinstating its indoor mask policy, the release says. Everyone ages 2 and older is now required to wear a mask inside the building unless they are actively exercising. Earlier in the summer, the Y had removed some of the plastic dividers between exercise equipment, but Smith said the facility put all of them back up ahead of Thursday’s reinstatement of the mask mandate.
Sentinel reporter Jack Rooney contributed to this story.