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Aquatic centers, public pools face uncertainty in reopening amid coronavirus

With temperatures in the triple digits, the Sacramento area anxiously awaits the chance to swim. But how soon, if at all, will public pools be allowed to reopen?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As businesses begin to reopen in California, the Sacramento area is facing temperatures in the triple digits, begging the question: When will pools and water parks be safe to open again?

Only 47 of California's 58 counties have moved into Phase 2 of reopening the economy, allowing myriad businesses and industries to open their doors to employees and consumers. 

However, public pools and aquatic centers will have a more difficult time balancing safety precautions with individual expectations. As such, water recreation is looking more and more like a Phase 3 development and will likely include many safety modifications.

The CDC states that "there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas," but physical distancing, face coverings, and increased sanitation are still a must as people gather in these areas. 

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This severely limits the amount of aquatic activities that are low-risk during this time. As a result, many local aquatic centers have been holding off on confirming a reopening date.

In the South Sacramento area, Southgate Recreation & Park District has this statement posted on the homepage of its website: "Due to COVID-19, New Aquatic Center and Fruitridge Aquatic Center are closed until further notice."

On the one year anniversary of Southgate's grand opening of the New Aquatic Center on Monday, the swimming facility remained empty. 

Southgate's two aquatic centers offer a range of activities on the water, including aqua boot camps and swim lessons for all ages, which have had to be postponed. On social media, the department has fielded questions as to whether their pools will reopen soon, but have been reluctant to give a firm date.

Similarly, City of Folsom Parks and Recreation announced in March that the Steve Miklos Aquatic Center would close effective immediately. The department merely stated that the closure would continue "until further notice," with no dates announced in the interim. 

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Auburn Recreation & Park District has a similar statement on their website as well. The Auburn district encompasses the Sierra pool and the Splash Pool, as well as Placer Hills Pool in Meadow Vista. As of now, there are no public swim dates listed on its website.

At Sunrise Recreation & Park District, all facilities are listed as closed through June 14, but this date could change.

Like other aquatic facilities, Sunrise Recreation cannot reopen until local health officials give the all-clear. According to its website, the department is "committed to opening our Park Facilities and Recreation Programs as soon as possible after permission from Health Officials is given. Until that time you are encouraged to visit your local SRPD Park for walking, hiking, biking while still abiding by all social distancing requirements as put forth by the County health directive."

Unfortunately, for a lot of public pool operators, swim lessons, open swim, and recreational swim make up a large amount of revenue. 

These activities may not be feasible on a large scale in the coming months. Rather, lap swimming and water aerobics may be more along the lines of what is possible in the coming weeks.

Changes could also including wearing a mask up until the moment you dive in. This includes while sunbathing, so you'll have to watch those tan lines. 

Other requirements could include social distancing in and out of the pool, keeping frequently touched surfaces clean, and disbanding of goggle/snorkel rentals due to the difficulty of sanitizing such equipment. More considerations from the CDC can be found here

While the future of reopening public pools remains uncertain, several of these local aquatic centers have created virtual community centers. As May is Water Safety Month, these virtual centers address questions and concerns, while also providing information on best practices for safe swimming. Check out your local aquatic center's website for more details. 

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