Although some municipal swimming pools are holding out hope for a possible opening or delayed opening, multiple pools in the region will remain closed for the summer due to concerns about the new coronavirus.
Mitchell has plans in the works to open in early June, and Gering and Sidney are considering opening at some point this summer. However, Scottsbluff, Alliance, Hemingford and Bayard have announced closing of their pools for the year. The Village of Morrill board will be conducting a special meeting to determine the fate of its pool for the season. Bridgeport is waiting for further guidance from state officials before making a final determination.
Mitchell city administrator Perry Mader said barring any unforeseen restrictions or additional outbreaks, the Mitchell pool staff will begin preparations next week with painting and maintenance in preparation for opening the season the first week of June. The Mitchell pool will only be able to handle 10 people at a time in the main pool and another 10 in the smaller children’s pool, but Mader said staff is considering limiting individual usage to two-hour blocks.
“There’s nothing definitive set as yet,” Mader said, “but we’re taking the appropriate steps to open.”
Gering director of parks, recreation and leisure services Amy Seiler said there are still determinations to be made for opening the city’s pool.
“We’re waiting on additional guidance from the governor,” Seiler said. “There was a report that came out that it was a recommendation that pools not open until July 15. We are working with our staff to make a determination if it’s financially feasible to open our pool, and if we actually have the resources and staff to be able to open it.”
Seiler said she expects a determination by the end of May on the fate of this summer. She said the governor’s recommendation would be taken into consideration, but it is important to not that July 15 is a recommendation, not a guideline. Seiler said if the Gering pool opens, it would likely be late June or early July, but no later than July 15.
“There are certainly a lot of variables that we’re exploring,” Seiler said. “We don’t want to take it off the table until we’re certain that it’s not feasible for us to do it. We feel like we do need to take into consideration public safety. That’s our number one priority, but if we’re able to accomplish getting the pool open within the boundaries that are withing CDC guidelines and Panhandle Public Health District guidelines, then we’re going to try our best to make it happen.”
The City of Sidney website indicates that the pool there will not open in May or June, but conditions will be evaluated to determine whether the pool can open at some point in July. Swimming lessons have been deferred to 2021. If the pool does open, there will be no concessions sold.
Interim city manager Rick Kuckkahn told the Scottsbluff City Council May 4 that his recommendation is to leave Westmoor Pool closed for the season.
The Alliance Big Blue Bay pool will not open in 2020, according to city Manager Jeff Sprock. He said officials deliberated for a couple of weeks and considered state recommendations, insurance recommendations and the cost of purchasing chemicals and performing maintenance on the pool for what would likely be a shortened season before opting to pull the plug on the season.
“Trying to have young, 15-, 16-, 17-, 18-year-old lifeguards out there trying to police social distancing didn’t seem practical to us,” Sprock said. “And we didn’t want to put them in that position.”
A Facebook post indicates that Bayard officials were concerned about maintaining social distancing in an aquatic environment.
While there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through properly treated water, concerns have been raised about possible spread in pool bathhouses and restrooms and on pool ladders, slides and lounge chairs, according to Nebraska League Association of Risk Management loss control manager Dave Bos. LARM has given guidance to its member communities to keep their pools closed.
“Elected and appointed officials have tough decisions to make,” Bos said. “This one is about a trade-off of our kids having a fun place to spend their summer afternoons or potentially saving lives in our communities. While swimming pools are a quality of life issue, they are unfortunately outweighed at this time by COVID-19, which is a quantity of life issue.