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Bethel Pool And Movie Theater To Reopen; Other Organizations Staying Closed

The Yukon Kuskokwim Fitness Center reopened on Monday, Jan. 15.
Christine Trudeau

Phase Two of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s "Reopen Responsibly Plan," which eases restrictions imposed to reduce the risk of COVID-19, takes effect May 8. Phase Two allows previously shuttered buildings like libraries, museums, churches and gyms, to open at low capacity. In Bethel, the pool and the movie theatre are two of the places reopening its doors this weekend.

The Yukon Kuskokwim Fitness Center will be open starting Saturday, May 9 from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., according to Facilities Director Stacy Reardon, but there will be significant restrictions.  

Reardon says that guests will have to wear a mask in all common areas, including the locker room. People can only take their masks off while they’re in the pool, in the shower, and in the cardio and exercise equipment rooms. Additionally, children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Capacity is limited to 10 people in the cardio and exercise equipment rooms, and also in the locker rooms; the limit in the pool has not yet been determined. Reardon says that the hot tub will still be completely off limits. 

“We're very sad about that,” Reardon said. “And I know a lot of people are going to be concerned, but unfortunately it's a very small, enclosed space.”

Reardon describes her feelings about opening up the fitness center as careful excitement.

“We're really looking forward to having people here,” Reardon said. “My primary anxiety is just making sure that we take every step that we can to make sure that everybody is safe.”

The Suurvik Cinema in Bethel is also opening May 8, with the first movie "Sonic the Hedgehog" playing at 6 p.m. The governor's mandates allow movie theaters to operate at 25% capacity. Manager Tim Heakin says people will be seated two or three seats apart, and they will need reservations ahead of time. Customers will be required to wear face masks until they get to their seats, where they can remove their masks.

Other organizations in Bethel are staying closed. Librarian Theresa Quiner says that the Kuskokwim Consortium Library is owned by the University of Alaska, and the university has not yet decided when facilities will be opening up. However, the library is partially functional; book checkout and some other services are available via curbside pickup.

The AVCP Museum is also remaining closed for the time being. AVCP Communications Director Azara Mohammadi says that if social distancing mandates were lifted the museum would open, but will not in current circumstances.

Most Bethel churches are saying it’s all or nothing. The governor’s mandates allow for 50 people inside church congregations. However, the Bethel Covenant Evangelical Church, the Moravian Church, the United Pentecostal Church, and the Baptist Pastor Church all say that number is not sufficient to hold services indoors with all their members. Those churches say that until social distancing mandates are lifted, they will have to either suspend services or find alternative ways to bring their congregations together. The Covenant Church has Zoom calls with about 200 people attending via video conference. The Pentecostal Church has been meeting via Facebook Live, or through KJNR radio. 

Greg Kim is a news reporter for KYUK covering environment, health, education, public safety, culture and subsistence. He's covered everything from Newtok's relocation due to climate change-fueled erosion to the Bethel chicken massacre of 2020.