Westport Weston YMCA makes masks optional, loosens other COVID restrictions

Exterior of the Westport Weston Family YMCA, in Westport, Conn. March 16, 2021.

Exterior of the Westport Weston Family YMCA, in Westport, Conn. March 16, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The Westport Weston Family YMCA is going mask-optional, opening its steam room and sauna, letting people swim for longer periods of time and taking other steps to loosen its COVID-19 restrictions.

The changes were announced late last month and most were effectively immediately. Westport-Weston YMCA CEO Anjali McCormick said the facility is following the lead of Gov. Ned Lamont and Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe, both of whom have taken steps recently to loosen COVID restrictions on the state and local level.

“We felt that, given the high rate of vaccinations and given how diligent Connecticut residents have been, we want to be respectful and mindful and treat members and guest as adults,” McCormick said.

The main change is that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks while doing a group exercise class, working out in the Wellness Center, playing basketball or pickleball, or walking on the pool deck or through the facility. Masks are still required in child care and school-age settings.

McCormick pointed out that this doesn’t mean people have to remove their masks if they are uncomfortable doing so.

“Anybody who wants to wear a mask, even if they are vaccinated, we encourage you to do so,” she said.

In addition to the masks, the YMCA is making multiple other changes, such as no longer requiring people to reserve a lane for lap swimming, and allowing people to swim for longer than 60 minutes. The steam room and sauna also are open again, and the YMCA is loosening its restrictions on parents and guardians watching their children participate in certain activities.

Gymnastics team parents and guardians are welcome to observe their child on Mondays and Thursdays from the YMCA’s waiting area, though masks are still required in that area. Swim team parents and guardians may watch their swimmer’s practice on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from the observation deck. Masks are required there as well.

The YMCA is one of many entities in town loosening its COVID restrictions. Last month, Marpe announced that, starting in June, some departments in town hall would open for in-person services, and that some town boards and commissions would go back to holding meetings in purpose, instead of online.

On Wednesday, the Board of Education announced that, as of June 7, it will return to in-person meetings, but that anyone attending — including board members — needs to wear a mask. Those who prefer to keep viewing meetings remotely can continue watching livestreams of the events on local Channel 78 and on the board’s website.

As for the changes at the YMCA, McCormick said patrons are excited about the updated guidelines, particularly the loosening of mask restrictions.

“People are so delighted to see other people in real life,” she said. “And now they can continue to live their lives and get healthy.”