As More States Reopen Pools for Summer, Obstacles Remain

USA Swimming
Photo Courtesy: Competitor

Many areas of the United States are gradually easing restrictions around the coronavirus pandemic, allowing swimming pools to reopen. But the openings remain too late for some clubs and leagues.

An overview of decisions that have come down this week across the United States:

Iowa pools can open effective May 22 for lap swimming and swimming lessons. In addition to limiting capacity, pools are required to take social distancing and hygiene measures. Indiana has moved up the third stage of its reopening plan two days to May 22, which includes community pools, recreational sports, and gyms and YMCAs (with restrictions).

West Virginia will allow pools to reopen May 30. The announcement by Gov. Jim Justice Thursday lumps pools with “bowling alleys, pool halls, roller rinks, and other places with indoor amusement.” Arkansas’s Department of Health has given the go-ahead for a June 1 resumption of limited-contact sports, including swimming. Pools are on the reopening docket in Nebraska starting June 1, in all but the state’s four hardest-hit counties. The decision loosens restrictions on pools in step with reopening bars (albeit without billiards or darts), zoos, movie theaters and small concerts and auctions.

North Carolina earlier this week announced that pools could reopen May 22. But some clubs and areas are hesitant to launch headlong into the season. From The News & Observer:

Raleigh has delayed opening its four outdoor and four indoor pools until at least June 26. A Durham city spokeswoman said Thursday that Durham would not open three outdoor pools at all this season. Indoor municipal pools in the city are closed until further notice. Knightdale tentatively plans to open its pool June 6. Chapel Hill, which operates one indoor and one outdoor pool, has not announced a plan for opening those.

Ohio has gotten the green light to open its pools. But logistical hurdles remain. Cincinnati, for instance, is opening just seven of its 24 pools, citing a shortage of lifeguards.

In Georgia, the mandate to keep pools closed has expired, leaving it up to local areas to determine openings. Many cities in the Atlanta metro area are keeping pools closed, but the city of Tucker in Dekalb County is making an early move to open. Among their precautions is an online registration system to reserve blocks of time.

Some states have ceded jurisdiction over pools to local counties. One is Wisconsin, where the Milwaukee County government decreed Friday that pools will remain closed for the summer. Tennessee’s Shelby County approved reopening pools with 25 percent capacity, but the city of Memphis is keeping its pools closed for the time being.

In Texas, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner announced a number of reopenings Thursday, but pools remain closed. He cited social distancing concerns as the main driver.

The news isn’t good for prospective swimmers everywhere. Pennsylvania has been particularly hard hit. Three leagues in the Philadelphia suburbs – the Suburban Swim League, the Delaware County Swim League and the Intra-County Swim League – announced this week that they would cancel their summer seasons, though the neighborhood swim clubs comprising the league could open eventually. Many pools in Central Pennsylvania are not going to open.

Classification of pools in the state remain unclear. Much of Southeastern Pennsylvania is under the “red phase” of Gov. Tom Wolf’s reopening plan, the stage of the most severe restrictions. It’s unclear if pools can open in the next phase, the “yellow phase,” or if they’re grouped with schools as requiring the “green phase” to reopen.

Maryland has also seen another large league close for the season, with the Greater Annapolis Swim League cancelling its summer slate. It’s the latest in a slew of cancellations that have been announced over the last month.

Swimming Through a Pandemic

The postponements and cancellations wrought by COVID-19 haven’t just affected the Olympics and the ranks of elite swimmers. They’ve trickled down to neighborhood clubs and summer youth leagues, affecting thousands of recreational and competitive swimmers alike. Here is some of our coverage of COVID-19’s effect on the American summer swimming calendar.

Resources for returning to the pool in the COVID-19 era

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4 years ago

Take the summer off, and save lives.

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