The spread of COVID-19, and the threat it poses to the elderly population, have dramatically changed the way senior centers operate.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), older people, those with heart and lung complications, diabetes and immunological conditions are the most vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus.

 Loose Center Director Carl Gabrielson said due to a directive from Genesee County issued Monday, March 16, the center is only open for essential services. This includes food services, planned informational appointments and a few other exceptions. Food cannot be eaten inside the building — it has to be taken out.

 This directive affects the 13 senior centers in Genesee County which operate similar to Loose Center.

 “Loose will be open to distribute a take-home lunch daily at 11:30 a.m. All other programs, events and appointments are canceled the remainder of the month,” Gabrielson said. “(The building) is two-thirds empty. Most of the building is blocked off and has been disinfected.”

 Most events have been canceled or postponed. This won’t change until the county gives further direction.

 “We’re trying to find ways we can help people the best. The biggest thing is we have to keep the people in the building to a minimum,” he said.

 Gabrielson said he feels bad for seniors who use the center regularly.

 “The center handles about 300 people a day. We’re down to about 10 people a day,” he said. “Anything that would draw a large crowd has been canceled, which is unfortunate. It affects seniors who really don’t have a place to go. We’re their life. They look forward to coming here. They miss it.”

 Many stores have run out of products such as toilet paper and cleaning wipes. Gabrielson said Loose works to help seniors find these products if need be.

 “We do help people in any way we can.”

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