Pool season is right around the corner so how are localities preparing it?
Phase 1 to reopen Virginia went into effect last Friday. Some businesses were able to reopen with restrictions, such as restaurants and barber shops but other establishments like hot tubs and swimming pools are closed.
While Phase 1 of the Gov. Ralph Northam’s Forward Virginia plan does allow outdoor pools to open for lap swimming only with a one-swimmer per lane limit, most are still closed including the outdoor pools at Upper County Park and Chickahominy Riverfront Park, both managed by James City County.
“Well, what we’re doing is going to depend on a number of different things,” said Alister Perkinson, parks administrator for the county’s Parks and Recreation department. “We are hoping to reopen our pools in [the] governor’s Phase 2.”
He said the county is watching Northam’s executive orders closely, and plans to use the Center for Prevention and Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Officials are also meeting with other park managers in different localities and looking at a recommendation from the National Recreation and Park Association.
The CDC recently released guidance for public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds to open during the coronavirus with recommendations including frequent hand washing, wearing cloth face coverings––not in the water — and ample signs encouraging good hygiene and proper social distancing measures.
But the details of the plan to reopen James City County pools aren’t hammered out just yet.
“We’re still kind of working through what it will look like,” Perkinson said. “There will definitely be modifications.”
Some suggestions the county is discussing include limiting the pools’ occupancy, spacing out deck chairs, sanitizing frequently touched areas and measures to keep the staff safe.
“We have some ideas but we also have to remain somewhat flexible,” Perkinson said. “We are in the process of filling the pools, the outdoor pools and getting them ready.”
He said he thinks they will probably have a more concrete plan by June 1 and are still waiting for more information on Phase 2.
The goal is to reopen the pools with restrictions and modifications to the CDC’s guidelines and the county definitely plans to limit the number of people in the pool area, he said.
Perkinson noted the county does not plan to hire additional staff this summer nor change the frequency they test the pools’ chlorine levels, which are usually tested once every hour.
“At this time, we don’t anticipate changing that,” he said about testing the chlorine levels more frequently, adding the Virginia Department of Health recommends daily testing.
Perkinson said he hopes they can open the outdoor pools in Phase 2 to give people a chance to do something fun this summer.
“I hope we can find a way to open up the pools and other park amenities in a way that’s safe for everyone and gives people a change,” he added.
Gail Whittaker, spokeswoman for York County, said the county does not have any public pools run by the locality and as for community pools, the responsibility for guidance and rule enforcement falls to someone else.
“I checked with our building safety office and was told that we do not inspect public pools,” she wrote in an email. “That is the responsibility of the health department.”
WYDaily reached out to Dr. Steve Julian, acting director for the Peninsula and Hampton Health Districts to see how they plan to monitor pool inspections or if the responsibility lies on the localities since VDH has other priorities during the coronavirus.
“We have a team in Environmental Health that is evaluating pools to maintain guidance on compliance with Phase I Governor’s Order 61,” Julian wrote in an email.
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