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Longboat Key Paradise Center to reopen in a modified capacity

Exercise classes and discussion groups of 10 or fewer will be held outdoors beginning May 18.

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  • | 4:36 p.m. May 14, 2020
  • Longboat Key
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On May 18, the Longboat Key’s Paradise Center will reopen after closing in mid-March. Four activities will resume, but none will take place in the building. 

When the coronavirus pandemic began ramping up, the Paradise Center on Longboat Key stayed open as long as they could. Until mid-March, the organization held physically distant exercise classes on the center’s patio to keep to their mission of combating loneliness among the island’s seniors, but closed when the board recommended it.

“We had a Zoom board meeting (May 13) … and really agreed that everybody has their own comfort level with being out and about and people can make good decisions for themselves,” executive director Suzy Brenner said.

Zumba, Stretch and Strengthen, the Thinking Out Loud discussion group and Fun and Games will resume, though none will take place inside the Paradise Center’s building at 546 Bay Isles Road. 

“Since part of our mission is to help prevent isolation and loneliness, it was really important for us to start providing a way for people to socialize again,”  Brenner said. 

“We're not comfortable yet having people inside the building where everybody's touching all kinds of hard surfaces. So luckily, we have a huge patio here.”

Classes will be limited to 10 people or fewer, and participants will be spaced six feet or more away from each other.

Brenner is encouraging people to bring masks, hand sanitizer, personal water bottles and even towels to lay down over chairs to be extra careful about not touching potential shared surfaces. Brenner, who teaches the classes and moderates discussions, will be far away from her participants. 

“It's a whole new world for all of us, obviously,” Brenner said. “We're going to bring it outside and we're just going to be as practical and safe as possible.”

Classes are typically funded with a $10 donation, and there will be a basket in which participants drop their payment so as not to touch anyone. Instead of having participants sign in, Brenner will take attendance. 

“It will just be interesting to see who shows up, who — if anybody — comes,” Brenner said. “There’s such a different level of comfort right now with being out and about. We'll see, but we really felt like it was important to give it a shot.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, May 15, announced the state was fully into his first phase of reopening. He announced gyms could reopen on May 18 with 50% capacity. 

Restaurants and retail businesses can operate at 50% of normal capacity, an increase from the 25% capacity in the initial phase one plans.

Museums and libraries can also operate at 50% capacity. DeSantis said local governments will have authority to determine how to manage those operations.

Bars and movie theaters will remain closed during phase one.