BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Due to the unpredictable future of COVID-19, the City of Beckley has decided to close both city pools for the entire summer. The decision was made to keep these facilities closed in the interest of public health and staff safety.
Director of Parks and Recreation Leslie Gray Baker says, “Normally this is the most exciting time of the year for my Department – we are gearing up to open the pools and getting ready to start all of our summer programs so this is so sad and very disappointing”.
COVID-19 presents unique challenges for managing pools. Pools are confined spaces not conducive to social distancing. The very nature of lifeguarding requires close contact with pool users and creates potential for unnecessary risk in life saving situations.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through properly treated pool water – there is a definite concern the virus could be spread in the pool bathhouses, restrooms, on pool ladders, slides, and pool lounge chairs.
Opening pools for even a shortened season would have been problematic because of lifeguard training issues. Lifeguards are trained by the YMCA, which itself has been closed because of the pandemic. Hiring lifeguards for a shortened season would be difficult as well. During the summer of 2019 having ample lifeguards was an issue. Neither pool was open seven days a week because of the lack of qualified lifeguards.
“Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another. We maintain our swimming pools to be safe and fun places for families to spend time, but we’re dealing with a pandemic with a lot of unknowns. This decision is about a trade-off of our kids having a fun place to spend their summer afternoons or potentially saving lives in our community,” Baker adds. “While swimming pools are a quality of life issue, they are unfortunately outweighed at this time by COVID-19, which, in the long run, is a much larger life issue.”