March will mark one year that the Solon Senior Center closed to its nearly 6,000 members due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and Mayor Edward H. Kraus is still proceeding with caution, he said last week.
“I believe it is our responsibility to open when our seniors are vaccinated,” he said. “We are close.”
COVID-19 vaccines are set to be available to Ohioans 80 and older starting Jan. 19, according to Gov. Mike DeWine’s recent announcement.
Mayor Kraus said the city is prepared to delay the opening of the center especially if it takes until the end of February or longer for aging residents to get their vaccinations.
“I’m willing to wait,” he said. “I feel very strongly, particularly with the seniors, that they are vaccinated and will then be comfortable coming into the center and being around others.” Also, the senior center staff will then be protected, he said.
“We’ve waited this long,” he said. “I won’t open it until we are safe, and safe to me means vaccinated, particularly for the senior population.”
Mayor Kraus said that, while the physical building is not open, the senior center staff is continuing to provide services to the senior population, whether with virtual programming or outreach of meal delivery, well checks and other services.
“The needs of our seniors are being met,” Mayor Kraus said. “They are just not being addressed at the physical location.”
The mayor said that when the center first closed last year, they thought it would be possibly for a week. “None of us really understood the magnitude” of the situation, he said of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the past 11 months, Ohio has seen 777,000 cases of COVID-19 and 9,627 deaths with the aging population as the most vulnerable, according to the Ohio Department of Health.
Gov. DeWine allowed the reopening of adult daycare and senior centers on Sept. 21, 2020. The centers, which had been closed since March 23, were given the green light to reopen with reduced capacity and new safety standards.
A date to reopen Solon’s Senior Center on Portz Parkway, which serves individuals ages 60 to 100 and over, has not yet been determined.