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San Diego County to public pool visitors: not yet

Social distancing excuse refuted by lap swimmers

Vista Terrace pool. Carmel Valley, Martin Luther King Jr., Tierrasanta and Vista Terrace pools opened on June 17 for lap swim and family swimming and by reservation only.
Vista Terrace pool. Carmel Valley, Martin Luther King Jr., Tierrasanta and Vista Terrace pools opened on June 17 for lap swim and family swimming and by reservation only.

A casual dip at a city pool now takes planning, a reservation, and willingness to arrive in a bathing suit.

When it comes to re-opening pools, San Diego has its toes in the water, but still isn't jumping in.

City pools closed to the public on March 16, in line with guidance from health officials, and an "additional step" the county took to combat coronavirus.

A week later, city-owned beaches, parks and trails were closed because of overcrowding.

Since then, beaches and other county-approved recreation, all requiring social distancing, have staggered back to life. City beaches fully reopened on June 2 with swimming and surfing allowed except on San Diego Bay.

So why have only four of the city's 13 swimming pools reopened?

"If it's safe to surf and swim in the ocean with social distancing, pool swimmers should be allowed the same opportunity," Sally Taggart, chair of San Diego-Imperial Swimming, told the county board of supervisors in May.

Community pools were slated to open in the current phase three of reopening. But when the county unveiled its phase three proposed pilot program in May, swimmers weren't thrilled.

Only apartment and condo pools could reopen, at 25 percent capacity. "We believe that water is safe, with extra sanitation," a county spokesperson said, making limited reopening possible.

It was bad news for the county's estimated 15,000 lap pool swimmers. Taggart, whose association serves 32 swim clubs and 4,500 athletes, asked that the county immediately open all pools for lap swimming.

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there's no evidence coronavirus spreads in chlorinated water, county health officials said the issue is social distancing – which Taggart refuted.

"Lap swimming is inherently solo like running and easily lends itself to social distancing," she said. And swimmers don't share equipment.

"A typical one-hour workout in a pool is less time than we spend standing in line in a store or dining out at a restaurant."

In June, the County Health Officer Order was amended to allow the use of outdoor pools. Indoor pools, with their more confined space, had to stay closed – which continued in July when Covid-19 cases spiked.

For pools to re-open, county safety protocols must be followed for sanitation, six-foot distancing, restroom monitoring and more. (State law requires that restrooms at pools stay open for swimmers).

Carmel Valley, Martin Luther King Jr., Tierrasanta and Vista Terrace pools opened on June 17 for lap swim and family swimming and by reservation only.

What about the others?

"The city decided to open four pools at various locations around the city as a pilot program" said city spokesman, Timothy Graham.

The city will test best practices and gather data on social distancing, optimizing pool access, reservation protocols, and more, he said.

When the other pools may reopen is unclear. There are no set dates and they may decide to continue with a phased approach, Graham said.

"We are learning what works best from a small scale opening and then are looking to implement those strategies to other pools."

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Vista Terrace pool. Carmel Valley, Martin Luther King Jr., Tierrasanta and Vista Terrace pools opened on June 17 for lap swim and family swimming and by reservation only.
Vista Terrace pool. Carmel Valley, Martin Luther King Jr., Tierrasanta and Vista Terrace pools opened on June 17 for lap swim and family swimming and by reservation only.

A casual dip at a city pool now takes planning, a reservation, and willingness to arrive in a bathing suit.

When it comes to re-opening pools, San Diego has its toes in the water, but still isn't jumping in.

City pools closed to the public on March 16, in line with guidance from health officials, and an "additional step" the county took to combat coronavirus.

A week later, city-owned beaches, parks and trails were closed because of overcrowding.

Since then, beaches and other county-approved recreation, all requiring social distancing, have staggered back to life. City beaches fully reopened on June 2 with swimming and surfing allowed except on San Diego Bay.

So why have only four of the city's 13 swimming pools reopened?

"If it's safe to surf and swim in the ocean with social distancing, pool swimmers should be allowed the same opportunity," Sally Taggart, chair of San Diego-Imperial Swimming, told the county board of supervisors in May.

Community pools were slated to open in the current phase three of reopening. But when the county unveiled its phase three proposed pilot program in May, swimmers weren't thrilled.

Only apartment and condo pools could reopen, at 25 percent capacity. "We believe that water is safe, with extra sanitation," a county spokesperson said, making limited reopening possible.

It was bad news for the county's estimated 15,000 lap pool swimmers. Taggart, whose association serves 32 swim clubs and 4,500 athletes, asked that the county immediately open all pools for lap swimming.

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there's no evidence coronavirus spreads in chlorinated water, county health officials said the issue is social distancing – which Taggart refuted.

"Lap swimming is inherently solo like running and easily lends itself to social distancing," she said. And swimmers don't share equipment.

"A typical one-hour workout in a pool is less time than we spend standing in line in a store or dining out at a restaurant."

In June, the County Health Officer Order was amended to allow the use of outdoor pools. Indoor pools, with their more confined space, had to stay closed – which continued in July when Covid-19 cases spiked.

For pools to re-open, county safety protocols must be followed for sanitation, six-foot distancing, restroom monitoring and more. (State law requires that restrooms at pools stay open for swimmers).

Carmel Valley, Martin Luther King Jr., Tierrasanta and Vista Terrace pools opened on June 17 for lap swim and family swimming and by reservation only.

What about the others?

"The city decided to open four pools at various locations around the city as a pilot program" said city spokesman, Timothy Graham.

The city will test best practices and gather data on social distancing, optimizing pool access, reservation protocols, and more, he said.

When the other pools may reopen is unclear. There are no set dates and they may decide to continue with a phased approach, Graham said.

"We are learning what works best from a small scale opening and then are looking to implement those strategies to other pools."

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