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Friedberg JCC in Oceanside is overcoming Covid struggles

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Though the Friedberg JCC has lost revenue and is operating at limited capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic, clients are starting to return to its fitness center, and virtual classes are thriving.

“Our program income has definitely been affected by the shutdown, and our program income is what supports our whole business,” said Jackie Ruiz, the JCC’s wellness director. “We’re running as much as we can, but safely. Overall, we took a hit, and our program income has dramatically dropped, with the majority of our services not being able to run.”

Despite the pandemic’s impact, Ruiz said, more members have returned to the gym in the past few months, and she is optimistic about the future. The wellness center closed on March 16, following an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and was closed until Sept. 2. Ruiz said the JCC began offering virtual programs almost immediately after the shutdown, which, she added, would likely be a permanent feature going forward. The wellness center also returned to in-person classes in October.

Upon reopening, wellness center administrators followed all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and New York state guidelines, including requiring face coverings everywhere but in the pool, social distancing, temperature checks, deep cleaning of all facilities and limits on classes. Though the center is permitted occupancy of up to 35 percent of capacity, Ruiz said, it has mostly hovered around 20 percent.

Roni Kleinman, the JCC’s executive director, said that while she was proud of what it accomplished in facilitating a safe return, there have been difficulties.

“Despite the challenges, our commitment to serve our community in times of crisis is stronger than ever,” Kleinman said. “Our virtual program offerings are vast and exciting and are a lifeline for seniors who can participate from the comfort of their homes. Additionally, we have many in-person health and wellness opportunities that are operating safely by meeting and exceeding the strict health guidelines set by local and national health authorities.”

She added that the JCC offers health and wellness programs, social services, early childhood programs, after school programs for school age children, as well as childcare programs for remote school students.

Ruiz said time slots for lap swimming are available with advanced registration to limit the number of swimmers. The center also offers up to 12 fitness classes per week virtually, and has resumed some in-person sports, including pickleball and table tennis. Virtual classes ran during the nor’easter on Dec. 16 and 17, even though the building was closed.

“People should feel safe coming to our fitness center, or any fitness center right now,” Ruiz said.

To learn more about the JCC and fitness center, visit friedbergjcc.org.