The Etowah Community Center is now closed until further notice after having been potentially exposed to the COVID-19 virus twice since its official reopening on June 15.
The community center had previously returned to normal hours, with the exception of Tuesdays where it closes at 4 p.m. to prepare for municipal court.
According to City Manager Tina Tuggle, staff and patrons were being checked for fever or signs of illness based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
However, the facility was shut down on Sunday after officials were informed of potential exposure to the virus.
“Due to notification from an instructor that they could have been exposed to COVID-19, I made the decision to close, as soon as we received the information, on Sunday afternoon through Monday evening to clean and sanitize for the safety of our citizens and staff,” Tuggle said. “I know that this is a large inconvenience to many. However, when operating a community center during this time it is our responsibility to respond with measures to ensure the safety of our patrons, citizens and staff. I hate this as much as anyone, but we are dedicated to doing all we can to keep people as safe as possible.”
Shortly after reopening Tuesday morning, the community center was closed again.
“This morning (Tuesday) I was advised that we now have a part-time staff member that has come down with the symptoms and is being tested,” Tuggle stated. “Therefore, for that reason, we have closed the ECC and Etowah ball field concession services until further notice. The ball fields will remain open. We take this step to ensure the protection of our citizens.”
She noted the part-time staff members that run the concessions have been trained to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) while on shift.
Once the community center reopens, they will continue to follow CDC guidelines of holding capacity to 50 people at a time and continue to practice social distancing.
“This is the concern that we hoped that we would not have to deal with. The community center is a location of social gathering in many forms. We have put in place several measures to protect not only our staff but our patrons as well. However, we have no control if persons are wearing masks in other locations and we cannot force persons to wear masks that come to the facility,” Tuggle said. “We make the suggestion to all that enter as the CDC guidelines have set forth. After speaking with the health department today, we feel that this is the best opportunity to keep all safe. We will do all we can to reopen as soon as possible. The concern is the health and safety of all that enter the ECC from patrons, citizens, staff, etc. We do not want to take any undue risks in being a factor in spreading this virus.”
Though the staff members cannot be forced to get tested for the virus, Tuggle recommends that they do so.
She also plans to clean and sanitize “every square inch” of the building while they are closed.
The community center was open between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday for anyone who may have entered the building and has concerns of possible exposure to the virus.
She mentioned that the community center cannot operate to its full potential while the virus is active, but hopes to one day be able to return operations back to normal without the threat of the virus.
Other city sites, such as city hall, are currently operational.
City hall is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and citizens can call until 4:30 p.m.
They currently plan for the Etowah Carnegie Library to resume normal hours on July 1.
They suggest that people wear face masks and practice social distancing.
“We are all very happy to be returning as close to normal as we can,” said Tuggle.
She expressed her sympathy to the citizens of Etowah for the “inconveniences” that are or may be caused by the virus.
“To our patrons and our citizens I am truly sorry that we have had to take such measures. I know that the steps that we have taken have not been received well by some and I truly hate that. However, we have been presented with the State of Tennessee and CDC guidelines and their directive is imperative for the health and well-being of the State of Tennessee and the City of Etowah,” Tuggle expressed. “We will do all we can to get things back to as much of a normal practice as soon as possible. We are all striving for the same goal. A safe and healthy Etowah.”