Salem shuts down senior center, library event in wake of public gathering decree

Salem is closing its city-run senior center, Center 50+, for the next 30 days starting Monday, March 16.

Center 50+ serves around 900 seniors each day through programs, meals and activities like fitness classes.

The news of the closure was announced Thursday afternoon.

Marilyn Daily-Blair, manager of Center 50+, said the center chose to close following Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement Wednesday evening banning public gatherings of 250 or more and suggestion to adhere to social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“That immediately struck us,” she said. “Our whole center is pockets of 10 and 20 people gathering. Potentially everyone in our center is at risk and vulnerable.”

Daily-Blair said the center started to see fewer seniors and volunteers coming in at the start of this week after the first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus was detected in Marion County on Sunday.

“Now that’s become really real for people,” she said.

The center serves lunch to around 100 people a day, but Daily-Blair said those meals will now be offered to go or delivered through the Meals on Wheels program, which cooks food at the center.

“We have a robust Meals on Wheels delivery system,” she said, adding that the Marion Polk Food Share-run program delivers 500 meals to homes.

But the delivery option takes away for some seniors their main source of socialization.

“We’re really looking at what can we do to reach out to these folks in their homes,” she said.

That includes doing check ins through Facebook live and offering stretching tips on the online platform.

“Our seniors are pretty darn savvy with Facebook,” Daily-Blair said.

On Friday, the center is also stopping its respite care program, which offers lunch, fitness classes, music therapy, arts and crafts during a day program for caregivers.

The center’s senior outreach program, the Friendship Brigade, suspended visits to area assisted living facilities last week. Volunteers with the program are working to arrange “phone visits” with isolated seniors and write personalized cards and letters. 

The city is canceling an event scheduled for Saturday at the Salem Public Library’s temporary location on Broadway Street meant to celebrate the new location’s opening. However, the library remains open.

Workshops on the city’s visioning process will also be rescheduled. The city will be offering an online survey rather than the planned in-person events.

People who are experiencing flu-like symptoms are asked to reschedule their appearance in Salem’s municipal court by calling 503-588-6146. Those represented by an attorney should call their attorney to make arrangements. Potential jurors who are feeling sick or at higher risk, should contact the court to reschedule their jury service, the city said.