Pool managers face a new challenge as they open during a pandemic

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

For the first time in its 60 years of operation, Wisehaven Swimming Pool didn't just train lifeguards and order new pool equipment in preparation for the summer swim season.

This year, managing wait lists, cutting capacity and ordering copious amounts of hand sanitizer are also part of daily tasks required of managers to promote public health and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public pools and outdoor recreational facilities in York County and across the state are being challenged with developing strategies to safely operate their businesses this summer.

"People are definitely anxious and ready to come swim and do something outside, rather than be at home," said Kelly Templeton, the general manager of Wisehaven Swimming Pool. "It's a challenging time, but the people that are here are very grateful to be here."

Jaezon Malone, 9, of York City, swims at Graham Aquatic Center-YMCA as the heat index reaches the mid-90's in York City, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Though under Gov. Tom Wolf's reopening plan public pool facilities in the yellow and green phase were allowed to open in May, many chose not to and instead used the extra time to take further health precautions. 

Wisehaven, located at 2989 East Prospect Road, had its opening day Friday — almost two weeks later than when it typically opens, on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.

The YMCA of York and York County also opened Friday. Outdoor pools are open with modified hours from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.

YMCA of York and York County's Graham Outdoor Facility is located at 543 N. Newberry St. Starting Monday, the facility will operate from noon to 7 p.m.

Brittany Hill, of York City, jumps into the pool at Graham Aquatic Center-YMCA in York City, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Currently, Wisehaven is only accepting membership at 45% capacity, while other members stand by on a wait list by submitting an application to the facility's dropbox.  Wisehaven is also offering full refunds to members who choose to request one due to limited capacity, Templeton said. 

Additionally, Wisehaven is following state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, including providing sanitizer stations, encouraging wearing face masks when going to areas such as the snack bar or locker rooms, and installing social distancing markers in locations where lines form, such as for diving boards and waterslides.

"It seems most people are doing a good job. We're not overly crowded," Templeton said. "Everybody's being considerate of others."

YMCA officials are following the same state and CDC guidelines for their outdoor pools and have taken further precautions by requiring all guests to complete a health screening process and temperature check, said Karen Ruppert, branch executive director for York County.

Quea Hart, 8, right, reacts as Ja'heem Breeland, 8, both of York City, jumps into the pool at Graham Aquatic Center-YMCA in York City, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"Luckily we're a part of a national organization, and this didn't just affect our YMCA but others across the country," Ruppert said. "We talked with other YMCAs about what they're doing."

Though the YMCA is not limiting the number of people in its pools, Ruppert said, there hasn't been a large influx of guests who want to swim.

"I think people are a little hesitant to venture into facilities," Ruppert added.  

While the YMCA of York County's outdoor pools opened two weeks late, the organization's indoor pools aren't slated to open until Monday. All indoor pools will follow similar health guidelines and require guests to wear masks when entering facilities such as bathrooms and locker areas.

Area pools have reopened including the outdoor pool at the Graham Aquatic Center in York, Thursday, June 11, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

Masks will not be required in pools, and only one guest will be able to use a lap lane at a given time, Ruppert said. 

On Wednesday, Wolf provided businesses with new health guidelines for outdoor recreation, recommending that all pools operate at less than 50% capacity.

Other restrictions the state recommended include limitations on visitor parking, controlling facility access, ensuring social distancing by ways of signage and wearing face masks when not in the water.

"Hopefully people will be kind and understand that as much as we would love for everything to be like it was last summer, it's a bit of a challenge and that we hope they're cooperative in our protocols," Ruppert said. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.