Community Connection of Baker City is making preparations to reopen the Senior Center and welcome people back for in-person lunches and other events that have been canceled for more than a year due to the pandemic.

“We’ve been talking about it but we’re still restricted by the governor,” said Joe Hayes, Community Connection manager in Baker City.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has said she will lift all statewide mandates once 70% of residents have had at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. The state is likely to reach that threshold before the end of June.

Hayes said the Community Connection board of directors will discuss the situation when it meets June 22.

“I think that our board has the opportunity to say we’re open for activities, just like the YMCA. And we already have a new policy that says if you demonstrate that you’ve got your vaccine, you don’t have to wear a face shield or mask in the building for staff and volunteers,” Hayes said.

In the meantime, as has been the case throughout the pandemic, Community Connection continues to offer carry out meals and Meals on Wheels.

Other popular activities at the Senior Center, such as bingo and card games, are still not allowed, however.

“I don’t understand why they don’t let us reopen for cards and bingo and things like that,” Hayes said. “It’s not going to be 60, 80, 100 people like there is at lunch. There’s going to be 10, 12, 16 in the entire building that can spread out and it’s for all the activities the seniors usually do here.”

When the Senior Center, at 2810 Cedar St., does reopen, Hayes said the staff is planning a celebration with balloons, door prizes, decorations and cake.

“I know my executive director wants to make a very big splash about it to welcome everybody back,” Hayes said. “I know that our entire organization and all of our senior centers want to try to make a splash on the reopening and say welcome back.”

His excitement is tempered by anxiety, though.

“I’m really nervous about whether I’m going to get all of my volunteers back,” Hayes said.

Volunteers are key to many activities at the Senior Center, he said.

“We want and need them back and even if they come back slowly, that would be fine,” Hayes said.

Updates and other information are available on the Community Connection of Baker County Facebook page.

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