Aquatics Coalition Launched to Speed Up America’s Safe Return to Pools

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Photo Courtesy: Andy Ross

More than 20 aquatics organizations Wednesday announced the forming of a new group, the Aquatics Coalition, to aid the reopening of swimming pools in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic.

The stated goal of the organization is to “help guide states and municipalities across the country in reopening swimming facilities for instructional aquatics in the safest possible manner.” It emphasizes the increased risk of untrained swimmers heading for unsafe water as temperatures rise, and hopes to push governments to prioritize opening pools for “purpose-driven aquatics, including using pools for swim lessons, exercise, rehabilitation, and athletic training.”

The website, aquatics-coalition.org, includes a four-point mission statement, highlighting issues like lifeguard shortages, imminent need for swim lessons, the low risk of COVID-19 transmission in chlorinated water and the physical and mental health issues from swimming. It has developed a set of best practices (pdf) based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health organizations.

“We applaud the public health professionals and policymakers on the front lines of combating transmission of COVID-19 and we understand that their jobs are incredibly difficult, so we want to help be part of the solution,” Shana Ferguson, USA Swimming’s Chief Commercial Officer, said in a press release. “The Aquatics Coalition is bringing together some of the best minds in water sports to identify and share best practices to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in natatoriums and outdoor venues, while allowing a safer, phased re-entry into the pool.”

Also from the release:

Now is not the time for us to be competitive.  Rather, this diverse group of organizations is brought together to share expertise, best practices and work completed to help us safely return to instructional aquatics.

The effort’s web home is on USA Swimming’s website. Other parties to the group include USA Diving, USA Artistic Swimming, U.S. Masters Swimming, the U.S. Swim School Association, USA Triathlon, YMCA and the American Red Cross. Among the organizations that the coalition has reached out to are, from the release, “The National Governors Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, and the National Association of County and City Health Officials.”

This coalition is an outgrowth of earlier efforts to petition governments to safely reopen aquatic facilities, a campaign that included a letter to President Donald Trump signed by dozens of high-level swimmers and coaches and hundreds of swimming stakeholders in May.

“Aquatics-based exercise and rehabilitation programs have proven to be important contributors for both mental and physical health,” said International Swimming Hall of Famer and NBC broadcaster Rowdy Gaines. “We want to ensure that individuals who need pools to improve their health and well-being are able to access them in the safest manner as soon as possible.”

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