How do you create a safe swim environment with the threat of COVID-19?

  1. Establish a new maximum number of people allowed in the pool facility at one time.
  2. Set up blocks of pool time for people to reserve.
  3. Establish a disinfecting schedule.
  4. Establish a reservation method. 

Introduction

After Stay at Home orders are no longer in place, it’s important that swimming pools open in a safe manner that reduces the spread of COVID-19. The good news is the pool environment lends itself to successfully accomplishing this objective:

  • Social Distancing is easily achieved – With a mix of the strategies such as those provided here, we can all accommodate social distancing around the pool.  
  • Chlorine in swimming pools disables coronavirus
  • Outdoor wide-open environment
  • Sunshine kills coronavirus*

 DETAILED STRATEGIES FOR SWIMMING POOLS

1.     ESTABLISH NEW POOL FACILITY CAPACITY LIMITS TO SUPPORT SOCIAL DISTANCING (Social Distancing Capacity)

Aside from stating that the social distance policy is in effect at the pool, pool owners may want to limit the number of people allowed inside the pool area at any one time. This basically is creating a new ‘Social Distancing Capacity’. Lowering the number of people allowed at the pool will make it possible (and more likely) for people to maintain minimum 6 ft. distancing.  

A)  Determining a Social Distancing Capacity

The goal is to use some method to determine how many people can be at the pool facility and still maintain 6 feet distancing. There may be clear guidelines from your Health Department before opening day. If not, here are some possible methods (there are many possibilities): 

*Assumption: Pool users of the same household will come to the pool together and, since they live in the same space, will not be practicing social distancing with each other. 

Note: Below are only three examples of methods that could be used to determine a Social Distancing Capacity that would support social distancing happening at a swimming pool. There are many methods that can be used, including general estimations or requirements of your Health Department.

METHOD 1-  50% of Maximum Bather Load. Almost every pool that is regulated by a health department has a Maximum Bather Load that has been established by the health department.* That bather load limit is often on the pool rules sign. A simple method for calculating a Social Distancing Capacity would be to take the existing Maximum Bather Load and use 50% of that number to get your Social Distancing Capacity.

If a pool had a Maximum Bather Load of 110, the Social Distancing Capacity would be 55 people (110 x 50%). Using typical bather load limits, this provides 30 sq. ft. for each person in the pool, which is a 5 ½ ft. x 5 ½ ft. space, which allows 10 ft between people, when evenly spaced.  

*A typical health department calculation for Maximum Bather Load is one person for every 15 sq. ft. pool where the depth is less than 5 ft. and one person for every 20 sq. ft. of pool where the depth is more than 5 ft., then subtract 300 sq. ft. for each diving board. Again, the Maximum Bather Load for your pool is probably already established.

METHOD 2 - Assumes that, for space calculation purposes, there will be one single chair, then 6’ of space in all directions to the next single chair. This calculation results in one person for every 101 square feet of pool deck, assuming that a typical pool chaise is 2.5 ft. x 7 ft.  

Measure the useable pool deck (where chairs can be placed) and divide by 101 sq. ft.

If a pool had useable deck space of 3,000 sq. ft., the Social Distancing Capacity would be 29 people (3,000/101).

METHOD 3-  Assumes that, for space calculation purposes, there will be one single chair, then 6’ of space to the next single chair, then 6’ to the next single chair, etc. 

Assume chair space is 2.5’. Then, 2.5’ plus 6’ of distancing space equals 8.5’ of deck space

Next, measure the perimeter of the pool deck  (the linear feet of deck) where chairs can be placed and then divide that number by 8.5 ft.  

If a pool had 220 linear feet of deck space for chairs, the Social Distancing Capacity would be 25 people (220/8.5). 

Note – there may be room for 2 or more rows of chairs. If two rows of chairs, then the max occupancy would be 25 people in the first row, plus 25 people in the second row = 50 people.  

B) Limit How Long Patrons Can Stay at the Pool Each Visit

Limiting how long patrons can stay at the pool increases the total number of people that can use the pool each day. The best way to execute this is to designate blocks of pool time available for people to visit the pool each day. For example, a pool could offer a series of 1.5 or 2 hour blocks of time throughout each day for pool visits. See example below. 

EXAMPLE:

The Social Distancing Pool Capacity is 25 people allowed into the pool area during each block of time.  Pool patrons can use the pool during the following hours:

10:00-11:30 AM         25 people
12:00-1:30 PM           25 people
2:00-3:30 PM             25 people
4:00-5:30 PM             25 people
6:00-7:30 PM             25 people
8:00-9:00 PM             25 people
 

150 people can use the pool each day (25 people for each of the 6 time periods a day = 150).

C) Build In Time for Entering/Exiting & Disinfecting

As in the example above, a 20 minute or 30 minute break between blocks of pool time allows:

  • Pool patrons to social distance while entering and exiting the pool.
  • Pool staff to disinfect surfaces and test water chemistry. 
  • The number of people in the pool area to stay below the Social Distancing Capacity.

2.      DISINFECTING

The pool water is constantly being disinfected by chlorine, but there may be a need for extra disinfecting of items outside of the pool, such as:

Door handles inside and outside
Handrails and pool ladders
Restroom doors, faucets, sinks, soap and paper towel dispensers, toilet flush levers and baby changing stations
Drink dispensing equipment and water fountains
Light switches
Telephones and Emergency shut-off buttons on spas, dials for spa jets
"Touch to activate" areas on splash pads and spray fountains
Keyless entry readers and lock boxes
Pools that are not staffed may want to put the responsibility for disinfecting on pool patrons.  At pools that are staffed with Lifeguards or Pool Attendants the responsibility for disinfecting may still be with pool patrons, or staff can provide help with disinfecting. If staff is disinfecting, establish designated times to disinfect.

3.       IMPLEMENTING THE SOCIAL DISTANCE CAPACITY AND POOL USAGE SCHEDULE

After estimating a new capacity to support social distancing and new hours for pool usage, decide how to put this into practice. 

Several options to limit pool attendance, while maximizing the pool use, are presented below. The best option for your pool may depend on the answers to several questions:

  • What are your state and local distancing guidelines?
  • How busy is your pool?
  • How well do your pool patrons voluntarily follow policies?
  • What will keep your members safe?
  • What will bring pool patrons peace of mind?
  • What are fair guidelines? 

OPTIONS FOR IMPLEMENTING SOCIAL DISTANCING CAPACITY AND POOL USAGE TIMES

A.      Use Technology: An online scheduling platform that allows people to reserve time at the pool.

The Pool Management Group has been working closely with Omnify to reposition their online scheduling platform to make it more useful and intuitive for swimming pools.

The Pool Management Group has donated their time and expertise on this project (and will not financially benefit from Omnify’s fees). We’ve done this to provide summer pools with the easiest way to use technology to address several COVID-19 hurdles.  

We want everyone to stay safe and have fun at the pool this summer, and we’re happy to share this excellent resource. Feel free to share the platform as well.

We want to thank Omnify for joining this effort. Omnify views this offering as a way for their company to support communities in these difficult times. They’re offering their platform at a discounted rate ($49/mo), while at the same time investing resources to modify their technology and processes for pool owners.

Features

The Omnify platform offers these features:

  1. Ability to limit the number of people at the pool. (You set how many people can sign up for ‘pool time’ in the system).
  2. Create a series of ‘blocks of pool time’ that people can reserve based on your pool hours. You define when and how long patrons can be at the pool, such as 10am-noon Mon-Fri, 12:30-2pm Mon- Fri, etc. 3:30-5pm Mon-Fri, etc. (you choose the length of time). Creating these blocks of times for each day does two critical things:
  • Maximizes the number of people who can use the pool each day (If you’ve got 6 blocks of time daily serving 25 patrons each block, that’s 25 x 6 blocks = 150 patrons/day).
  • Allows you to build in time between patron ‘pool times’ for disinfecting and time for patrons to enter and exit the property without crowding.
  1. Option to require pool patrons to agree to your Pool Policies or a Release of Liability before reserving time at the pool.
  2. Receive a private reservation webpage (hosted on Omnify) with a link to send to your members. Pool patrons signup and manage changes to their reservations without any platform administrator intervention.
  3. Ability to change capacity limits and pool time schedules (due to experience or future revised regulations).

Learn more at Omnify’s pool-specific site here:  https://www.poolisopen.org/

We've created a Tip Sheet to help our customers with Omnify's set up. Click here to view. 

 Offline options for implementing Social Distancing Capacity and Pool Usage Hours:

B.      Volunteer compliance with the posted occupancy number.

Members come into pool area only if the maximum occupancy is not yet met. Members would not know until they get to the pool if capacity is met. Send capacity policy out in newsletters and all other forms of communication. Post signage with the maximum number allowed in the pool and social distancing guidelines of 6’. See sign possibility below.

C.      Pool Staff can limit the number of people on a first-come first-served basis. 

Gate Attendants could be used to monitor the number of people allowed to enter. Gate attendants could also disinfect surfaces.

D.      Set specific hours or days for specific groups of people.

For example, households on Streets A & B could have access to the pool on certain days and possibly even only certain hours (such as Mondays between 12:00 – 2:00). Streets C & D would have access on other days. This helps to inherently restrict pool attendance and increase a patron’s chance of the pool not being at capacity when they go.

E.       Assign time blocks based on street numbers.

This is similar to the above option: Homes with even street numbers could have access to the pool at certain times and days and homes with odd street number could have access to the pool at other designated times and days.

Please Note: It will not be possible for Pool Staff to be involved with enforcing social distancing between groups of people, as they will not know which people already live together. Additionally, Lifeguards cannot have a task in addition to watching the pool.
 

4.      POOL FURNITURE

Since pool furniture cannot be reliably disinfected between each user, consider having pool patrons bring their own chairs each time they come to the pool. 

If you choose this option, the pool furniture that was used in past summers can be stacked and left locked up with a coated cable and padlock. 

5.      POOL ACTIVITIES

Group games such as water volleyball, water basketball, cross pool, which involve multiple people interacting in close proximity, should be discontinued. Parents and chaperones of children, not lifeguards, will be responsible if they would like their children to social distance while in the pool. 

6.      LIMITING LIABILITY

Seek your attorney’s advice regarding a liability release and a sign.

RELEASE OF LIABILITY

This is a sample liability release, giving an example of what could be a required step when one is making a pool reservation online. This release is from the Boys and Girls Club of San Francisco:

By signing this agreement, I acknowledge the contagious nature of COVID-19 and voluntarily assume the risk that my family, including child(ren), and I may be exposed to or infected by COVID-19 while on site at the pool and that such exposure or infection may result in personal injury, illness, permanent disability, and death. I understand that the risk of becoming exposed to or infected by COVID-19 at the pool may result from the actions, omissions, or negligence of myself and others, including, but not limited to, the HOA Board and pool management company's employees, volunteers, and program participants and their families. I voluntarily agree to assume all of the foregoing risks and accept sole responsibility for any injury to my child(ren) or myself (including, but not limited to, personal injury, disability, and death), illness, damage, loss, claim, liability, or expense, of any kind, that I, my family and my child(ren) may experience or incur in connection with my child(ren)’s attendance at the pool or participation in pool activities (“Claims”). On my behalf, and on behalf of my children, I hereby release, covenant not to sue, discharge, and hold harmless the HOA Board and the pool management company and their employees, agents, and representatives, of and from the Claims, including all liabilities, claims, actions, damages, costs or expenses of any kind arising out of or relating thereto. I understand and agree that this release includes any Claims based on the actions, omissions, or negligence of the HOA Board and the pool management company and their employees, agents, and representatives, whether a COVID-19 infection occurs before, during, or after participation in pool facility activities. 

COVID-19 WARNING SIGN – Pool owners may want to consider a sign. The sign should be large, printed in large letters and posted in a prominent place at the entrance to the pool. These are just possible policies – signs can be customize based on local requirements, your attorney's advice and your policies.

COVID-19 WARNING

  • The danger of exposure to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 exists.
  • By entering the pool, you take responsibility for your own protection and for disinfecting your hands and anything you touch in the pool area.
  • Do not use the pool if you have a cough, fever or other symptoms of illness.
  • Maintain at least 6 feet between you and other people who are not a part of your household.
  • Wear a face covering when you are not in the swimming pool.

MAXIMUM OCCUPANCY ____

*Newsweek, Yahoo News and others have reported that the Homeland Security Department’s Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center laboratory experiments show that sunlight destroys coronavirus quickly.

CDC has free printable signage related to COVID-19 safety -  click here.