Our USA Swimming team is starting swimming practices again starting this week, June 18th. We’ve been paying attention to the guidelines put forth by our state, Illinois, and have worked with our risk management agency to implement safe protocols for users and staff.
My wife is immune compromised and I’ve been taking the social isolation and mask wearing very seriously; if i get her sick she’s at higher risk of serious complications due to corona virus. I’m apprehensive about returning to the pool deck.
We’ll be practicing in our 4 lane, 20 yard indoor pool. There are a number of things we’ve done to make it safer and allay many of my fears.
Cleared the pool deck:
We had stuff everywhere; toys, tot benches, chairs for the lifeguards and lap swimmers, lifeguard tubes, and hula hoops. The deck felt crowded. When the pool shut down for 3 months we removed everything from the deck and put it into a storage area. Now there is significantly more room on the deck without all the extra clutter removing space to move around.
Taped out markers for 6 foot distancing.
I’m not a huge believer that 6 feet of distancing is going to protect me. I like to say it is one cough away from getting me sick. I think it is a psychological reminder that you need to remain far away from other people and that getting close like we used to without worry or concern for another person’s germs is no longer acceptable. Having the markings on the ground and the 6 feet of space between reinforces the seriousness of the situation for our swimmers and I know it will help.
Remember, that 6 feet apart isn’t like armor. It is a precaution. More distance is better if you can do it.
One swimmer at each end of a lane.
Our swimmers will share a lane; one person on each end. Our goal is to pair up people of like ability and skill so they aren’t running into each other or having to deal with lapping or interacting except for the brief period they cross directions. In total we’re going to have 7 swimmers in 4 lanes (one lane has an ADA staircase and can only support one swimmer).
Everyone wears a mask.
The coaches on deck will need to wear masks the whole time. Lifeguards must wear masks the whole time (the only exception to this is when they enter the water for a rescue). Swimmers must enter with a mask and leave with one. This makes me feel better as I’ve been a diligent mask wearer for the last 3 months and I expect everyone else to follow suit; it is our civic duty living in a civilization. Wear a mask so I don’t get your illness and kill my family.
Open doors and increased airflow.
Our lifeguarding provider suggests we increase airflow through the pool. This will help the chloramines as well as the droplet dispersion to diffuse into the air faster. Outside the pool we’ll be blowing fanned air into the large emergency doors to increase air blowing into the ejector vents.
Locked down Locker rooms.
Right now the locker rooms are closed. Swimmers enter in their suits and leave in them. They will not have an opportunity to change or shower. If a swimmer needs to use the washroom during practice they’ll be able to but it is discouraged. Swimmers will enter through the large doors with the fan, swim, and exit through a locker room and out the building without cycling back through main entrance. We’re making this as one way flow as possible to avoid contact with group switching.
Swimmers will wait outside the building 6 feet apart before they come in. Inside we’ll escort them to the pool deck, and when done with practice escort them out. Once out of the building we’ll escort the next group in.
One hour blocks.
With only 7 swimmers at a time we’re swimming all day in one hour blocks from 9am – 5pm. We’re lucky that we have a facility and it is the time of year where we’re not contending with school and going to work. Many of our participants can work from home and the swimmers have signed up for slots in each time slot. More advanced swimmers get 3 times a week (M, W, F) and beginners are swimming 2 times a week (Tues, Thurs).
We’ll have 2 guards that don’t have to share equipment and will have their own break and guard chairs. They’ll have their own section of the pool deck and no swimmers will come in contact with them. they’ll be near a phone for EAP activation and have gone through Covid-19 specific training.
I’m optimistic but cautious. I know face covering fatigue is real and I’m dreading wearing one for 8 hours in a row. I know that people do it, but also understand it is uncomfortable. I hope that when you’re considering reopening your pools you’re thinking about all the things you can do to keep yourself and your swimmers safe.
Stay healthy, stay smart, and operate with an abundance of caution.