Memorial Day is typically the time of year when city pools are opened for the summer season. COVID-19 considerations, however, are threatening to make it a dry summer for many communities. Cities across the state of Iowa, large and small, are wrestling with the decision of whether or not to open their municipal pools, assuming Governor’s Reynolds’ declaration to close them until at least May 27, 2020, is lifted. A few cities, such as Cedar Rapids and Mason City, have already pulled the plug on pool operations this summer, citing health concerns and having adequate staff to address the challenges associated with meeting CDC recommendations for safely operating their facilities.

Scott Hock, Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Cedar Rapids, addressed the challenges, saying, “Our staff has spent the last several weeks reviewing the guidelines from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for operations to determine if accommodations could be made to allow public swimming at the pools.

“With over 160,000 typical pool users [in Cedar Rapids] each summer, the potential for exposure to COVID-19 still exists even if following these guidelines, due to the number of surfaces at the facilities that are touched hundreds of times each hour,” he said, adding that social distancing in the water and lifesaving “would be difficult.”

A final decision about the fate of La Porte City’s pool season is expected soon, as the City Council is expected to discuss the issue at their next meeting on May 26. Locally, finding enough lifeguards to fully staff the season has been a challenge in recent years. The CDC’s recommendations for maintaining a healthy environment would add to that burden. Some of the guidelines include the following:

CDC: Maintaining a Healthy Environment
Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects each time they are used. For example:

  • Handrails, slides, and structures for climbing or playing
  • Lounge chairs, tabletops, pool noodles, and kickboards
  • Door handles and surfaces of restrooms, handwashing stations, diaper-changing stations, and showers
  • Setting up a system so that furniture (for example, lounge chairs) that needs to be cleaned and disinfected is kept separate from already cleaned and disinfected furniture.
  • Labeling containers for used equipment that has not yet been cleaned and disinfected and containers for cleaned and disinfected equipment.
  • Protecting shared furniture, equipment, towels, and clothing that has been cleaned and disinfected from becoming contaminated before use.

Beyond cleaning and disinfecting facilities, another major challenge for safe pool operations is maintaining social distancing both in and out of the water, which could severely limit the number of patrons facilities can accommodate.