Interim Best Practices for Reopening Pools in Response to COVID-19

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June 11, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced the reopening of pools is now a local government decisionPlease use these best practices to guide your reopening.

Also refer to the NYSDOH Interim Guidance for Pools and Recreational Aquatic Spray Grounds During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Note: This document does not apply to private homeowner’s pools.

Best Practices

Personal Hygiene 

  • Provide supplies for proper hand and respiratory hygiene, including soap, running water, and disposable paper towels; alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol for areas where handwashing facilities may not be available or practical; and tissues and trash receptacles.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Handwashing stations and/or hand sanitizer should be made available in buildings and outdoor locations.
  • The use of equipment such as phones, headphones, microphones, and other personal equipment should not be shared, and should be sanitized before and after each use.

Education & Symptom Monitoring

  • Educate staff, patrons, and swimmers about when to stay home (for example, if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days) and when they can safely end their home isolation.
  • Everyone should monitor their health status and stay home when feeling symptoms of any illness
  • Consider conducting daily health checks (for example, temperature screening or symptom checking) of staff. Ensure safe and respectful implementation that aligns with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.

Maintaining a Healthy Environment

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects each time they are used. For example:
    • Handrails, slides, and structures for climbing or playing
    • Lounge chairs, tabletops, pool noodles, and kickboards
    • Lockers, door handles and surfaces of restrooms, handwashing stations, diaper-changing stations, and showers
  • Maintain logs on site that document date, time, and scope of cleaning and disinfection.
  • If surfaces are dirty, clean using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • Launder towels and clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water temperature and dry items completely.
  • Protect shared furniture, equipment, towels, and clothing that has been cleaned and disinfected from becoming contaminated before use.
  • Consult with the company or engineer that designed the aquatic venue to decide List N disinfectants approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are best for your aquatic venue.
  • Ensuring that ventilation systems of indoor spaces operate properly.
  • Increase introduction and circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. However, do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to staff, patrons, or swimmer
  • Changing deck layouts to ensure that in the standing and seating areas, individuals can remain at least 6 feet apart from those they do not live with.
  • Provide physical cues or guides (for example, lane lines in the water or chairs and tables on the deck) and visual cues (for example, tape on the decks, floors, or sidewalks) and signs to ensure that staff, patrons, and swimmers stay at least 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with, both in and out of the water.
  • Stagger use of communal spaces (for example, in the water or breakroom), if possible, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects each time they are used.
  • Discouraging people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect or that are meant to come in contact with the face (for example, goggles, nose clips, and snorkels).
  • Discouraging the sharing of items such as food, equipment, toys, and supplies with those they do not live with.
  • Ensuring adequate equipment for patrons and swimmers, such as kick boards and pool noodles, to minimize sharing to the extent possible, or limiting use of equipment by one group of users at a time and cleaning and disinfecting between uses. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

  • Face Coverings: Physical respiratory protection such as a cloth face covering should be worn whenever people are within six feet of each other because (a) COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets and (b) a significant number of infected people will show no outward symptoms of illness.
  • Gloves: The use of gloves is recommended for cleaning, caring for someone who is sick, or certain workplace environments. Gloves are not a substitute for regular hand washing.
  • Note: The use of N-95 and surgical masks should be reserved for healthcare providers and other sectors when appropriate.  

Social Distancing 

  • Limit the maximum size of any single group of people on the premise or in the water to 10 or fewer individuals; however, there may be more than one group on premise or in water so long as they are able to be separated by at least six feet.
    • Occupancy of the premise and pool should be limited to the number of individuals and groups who can be safely and appropriate spaced such that each individual and group is at least six feet away from others.
  • Ensure different groups of people are separated by at least six feet on the premise or in the water, to the extent possible;
    • However, if using physical barriers to separate groups of individuals, they must not present a health or safety risk by obstructing supervision or impairing airflow, heating, cooling, or ventilation.
  • Everyone should maintain 6-feet distance from others in public spaces unless they are members of the same household or family unit, or safety or the core activity requires a shorter distance.
    • However, any time individuals are within six feet of individuals outside of their household or family unit and not in the water, they must wear an acceptable face covering that covers both the nose and mouth. Individuals must be prepared to don a face covering if another person unexpectedly comes within six feet, refer to the face covering guidance above. If unable to do so, use a face covering while not in the water to lower exposure to respiratory droplets (see above).
    • For health and safety concerns, ensure face coverings are not worn by individuals while they are in the water
  • Exceptions to the social distancing guidance include:
    • Anyone rescuing a distressed swimmer, providing first aid, or performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with or without an automated external defibrillator.
    • Individuals in the process of evacuating an aquatic venue or entire facility due to an emergency.
  • Facilities should consider ways to maintain social distancing as it relates to the circumstance.

Messaging

  • Encourage all staff, patrons, and swimmers to wash their hands often and stay home if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 14 days, or were exposed through close contact to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.
  • Post signs about how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly wash hands, promote everyday protective measures, adhere to social distancing rules, and properly use a cloth face covering in highly visible locations (for example, at deck entrances and at sinks).
  • Broadcast regular announcements about how to stop the spread on PA system.
  • Include messages about behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19 in contracts with individual patrons or households, in emails, on facility websites (for example, posting online videos), through facility’s social media accounts, and at areas of entry).
    • Advise those wearing face coverings to not wear them in the water. Cloth face coverings can be difficult to breathe through when they are wet.

Interactions between People

  • Reduce the number of people to prevent crowding.
  • Use messaging to promote preventive practices (hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, staying home if ill).
  • Consider programming to reduce high-risk activities (i.e. those that require physical contact between participants).
  • If serving food, consider packaged refreshments. Any event that provides food should consult with the Environmental Health Department (315-366-2361).
  • If planned events must be conducted, staggering drop-off and pick-up times, as much as possible, to maintain distance of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live together.
  • Ask parents to consider if their children are capable of staying at least 6 feet apart from people outside of their household with before taking them to a public aquatic venue.

Contact Tracing

  • In the event that there is a local outbreak of COVID-19, facilities should be prepared to provide a list of individuals that have entered the location or attended an event.

Planning Ahead

  • Using the guiding principles above, facilities should address each topic area during plan development.  
  • What measures will you implement to ensure the health and safety of people? What is your plan to enforce these measures?
  • Measures should include:
  • Personal Hygiene & Monitoring of Symptoms
  • Disinfection Practices
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Physical Distance
  • Interaction between People
  • Maintain Regulatory Awareness. Be aware of the latest local or state regulatory agency policies on gathering requirements or recommendations to determine if events, such as aquatic fitness classes, swim lessons, swim team practice, swim meets, or pool parties can be held.

Additional Considerations by reopening phase

Phase 3

Open within group gathering guidelines and individual physical distancing.

Capacity:  Limit the maximum size of any single group of people on the premise or in the water to 10 or fewer individuals; however, there may be more than one group on premise or in water so long as they are able to be separated by at least six feet. Occupancy of the premise and pool should be limited to the number of individuals and groups who can be safely and appropriate spaced such that each individual and group is at least six feet away from others.

General Cleaning: Clean and disinfect every programming space every 2 hours according to CDC guidelines. Provide cleaning stations in every programming space. Clean each area pre and post use at all contact points

Equipment Cleaning: Clean and disinfect all staff equipment after each use. For items used in swim lessons, use them and clean and disinfect between uses. General public items still not available for use.

Minimizing Contacts: Use family units for swim lessons, Eliminate partner workouts, sharing equipment. Educate patrons on distancing, minimizing contact in pool area. Unused lobbies or other social areas should be closed,

Hygiene: All employees required to wear PPE and wash hands frequently, Patrons encouraged to wear PPE. Based on facility protocols, encourage head to toe cleansing showers.

Check-in/out procedures: Touch pads or sign in sheets should not be used. Staff should sign in and out all users. Provide barriers for staff when possible. Use electronic payment as much as possible.

Programming: Use family units for swimming lessons, Eliminate partner workouts, sharing equipment, etc. Educate patrons on physical distancing, minimizing contact in pool area. Consider utilizing sessions to accommodate a larger public.

Food and Beverage: No food allowed in any facility at any time. Sports drinks/water allowed if brought by the patron.

Non-participants: Only active participants are allowed in the facility.

Responsibilities: Lifeguards should not be responsible for monitoring distancing: they must focus on water safety. Educate patrons on risks, new facility guidelines.

Phase 4

Open within group gathering guidelines and individual physical distancing.

Capacity: To be determined by NYSDOH or 36 sq. ft. per person represents social distancing. 90 people per active use zone if social distancing not possible.

General Cleaning: Clean and disinfect every programming space every 4 hours according to CDC guidelines. Provide cleaning stations in every programming space. Clean each area pre and post use at all contact points.

Equipment Cleaning: Limit equipment use during recreational swim. Relax restrictions on programming usage, but still cleaning and disinfecting after each class lesson

Minimizing Contacts: Resume instructor supported swim lessons, If personal contact is allowed. Water fitness partner work can resume.

Hygiene: All employees are encouraged to wear PPE and wash hands frequently. Patrons are encouraged to wear PPE. Based on facility specific protocols, encourage head to toe cleansing showers.

Check-in/out procedures: Touch pads or sign in sheets should not be used. Staff should sign in and out all users. Provide barriers for staff when possible. Use electronic payment as much as possible.

Programming: Resume instructor supported swim lessons, If personal contact is allowed. Water fitness partner work can resume.

Food and Beverage: No food allowed in any facility at any time. Sports drinks/water allowed if brought by the patron.

Non-participants: Follow facility guidelines regarding viewing participants in a program. Utilize designated areas for viewing for aiding with cleaning protocols.

Responsibilities: Lifeguards should not be responsible for monitoring distancing: they must focus on water safety. Educate patrons on risks, new facility guidelines.

Post-Phase 4

Open at full capacity. Follow Industry and facility guidance. Cleaning will likely have changed. Update all necessary protocols.


Additional Resources 

Madison County, https://www.madisoncounty.ny.gov/2479/Coronavirus-COVID-19

New York State, https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home

New York State Recreations and Park Society ‘Safe to Play!’ Reopening Guidance, May 27, 2020 https://newyorkstaterecreationampparksociety.wildapricot.org/resources/COVID-19%20NYSRPS%20REOPENING%20GUIDANCE%20FINAL%20COPY%20(JUNE%208)-1-1.pdf

  • For locker room and shower information, refer to page 24.

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html