Lt. Governor Jon Husted said Thursday that pools and aquatic centers will be allowed to reopen May 26 with new rules in place.
He said specific requirements for pools would be released online Thursday, but the state had not made the protocols available publicly by the close of business Friday.
Many communities are awaiting those details before determining whether they will be able to open pools this summer.
Members of the state’s Outdoor Recreation Advisory Group provided a glimpse of recommendations it provided to the state for potential requirements.
“Pools are a little harder to keep people apart, and that’s why there’s been some industry members that have said, ‘Boy, I don’t know how we’re going to do this,’” said Lorain County Public Health Commissioner Dave Covell, who is among two dozen advisory group members.
“Some are pretty confident they may be able to pull it off. Others are struggling a little bit with how are they going to be able to do it.”
Covell said while pool chemicals kill the virus, group recommendations focused on protocols to preserve social distancing and keep staff and guests safe. He said staff members other than lifeguards will have to enforce social distancing on pool decks and in the water.
“Lifeguards are already busy trying to make sure no one drowns, so you’re going to need another group of folks to help with trying to keep kids apart so they’re not all over each other in the pool and space people apart on the deck, things like that,” Covell said.
Advisory group member Woody Woodward is Executive Director of the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, comprised of more than 2,000 local parks and recreation professionals who are deciding whether it’s feasible to open pools and how to operate them under new protocols.
“There are going to be far less people in public pools,” Woodward said.
He said many communities already faced challenges finding lifeguards, and new protocols such as face mask requirements and the risk of exposure may deter potential lifeguards.
“It makes me wonder how many 16 year-olds are going to want to sit on a deck with a mask on in 95 degree heat,” Woodward said. “Just because a community can do something, is allowed to do something, doesn’t mean that they will be able to do it safely, efficiently and cost effectively.”
He said few pools will likely have staff and procedures in place to open by May 26. Pools generally lose money, and the consolidated season may be an additional financial drain, according to Woodward.
Health officials noted that pool visitors will have to do their part by following the rules, as well.
“If this virus starts kicking in again, the pools are going to have to close again, and we don’t want that,” Covell said. “So, the more we can all work together, the better chance we have of success.”