Monthly Manager Moments
By Greg Schmidt, Aquatics Manager
Monthly Manager Moments – Article #29
Aquatic Center Life in the Covid-19 Climate
What a strange year it has been! Within the first two months of 2020, we could see that something awful was on the horizon; starting with the reports of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, China. Just 2.5 months into the year, our pool was closed down until “further notice.” I assumed that we’d be down for about a month or so, until this kind of blew over. Nope. After one month, the decision was made to be closed the entire spring quarter and then all summer. Then in September, we were one of the few aquatic centers to reopen after 6 months of closure. Despite reopening September 21, the pandemic was never under control. In fact, it has gotten considerably worse since we reopened. Fortunately for us, we have stringent protocols in place to keep our staff and customers safe; thanks to the WRPA Aquatic Network working with the State Dept. of Health and the Governor’s office.
While we were closed, we saw a number of wonderful traditions fall away, at least for this year:
Bloomsday, Hoopfest, the 2020 Summer Olympics, Major League Baseball’s 162 game season, Pig Out in the Park, High School sports, our college football league (Big Sky), etc., etc. The good news for me was that I was able to still come to work here and do a lot of the “back burner” maintenance that needed to get done. I painted nearly everything that wasn’t moving! I also had lots of time to work on manuals and protocol revisions. I spent about ½ of my time working from home on those. Over the 6 months, all of those things got done.
We reopened on September 21st, in time for the Fall Quarter at EWU. I spent much of the previous month setting up the pool for Covid-19 Operations. Lots of signs, chairs, masks, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, rags, gloves, etc. were added to the normal operation. I had to devise creative routes for entry and exit, to maintain as much social distancing as possible. Here are some of the measures that we took to keep our staff and customers safe –
- No one admitted presenting with Covid-19 symptoms.
- Masks are mandatory for ALL persons at all times; staff and customers, unless in the water.
- One person per lane for lap swimmers, and no more than 2 for swim teams.
- Swim teams’ rules were later relaxed to 3-4 per lane, but we have stayed with 2 as long as possible. When we need to go to 3 per lane - must start the 3 kids at opposite ends, and one in the middle. They must stay apart at all times, except when passing.
- Lap lanes may have 2 people in them, ONLY if they’re from the same household.
- Entry and exit routes were changed to minimize congestion and passing in narrow hallways.
- Only lap swimmers and water exercise (WX) customers are allowed to enter at the front desk main entrance.
- All other users must enter from the second level balcony, and wear their swimsuit under their clothes.
- Showers are open, but changing in the locker rooms is only allowed for lap swimmers and WX participants.
- Toilets are open, but public restrooms are locked.
- No towel service available.
- No day-use lockers available.
- Equipment used is restricted to items easily disinfected between users.
- Only non-contact, deck instruction is permitted. Instructors are not allowed to touch their students, or be in the water with them.
- Thus, WX is taught from the deck, and students are 10-12’ apart.
- Only upper level classes are offered.
- Divers must stay at least 6’ apart in line when waiting for their turn on the board.
- NO goodies for staff, no community coffee.
- Staff changing room is closed. No staff social interaction in the guard room. No meetings in the guard room, only out in the wide hallway or the natatorium.
- All doors, handles, keyboards, phones, radios, benches, etc. are disinfected after every swim.
- Each swimmer has a chair at the end the lane for their mask and gear. The chair is wiped off after every use with a clean rag and disinfectant solution provided next to every chair.
Training staff has also become a unique challenge. We have staff bring someone from their household to be their only victim when practicing first aid/rescues; to minimize contact with other staff members. The other staff member on their team must remain in the same group. That restricts contact to only one other staff member. Rescue protocols have been modified to avoid face-to-face approaches, and avoid rescue breathing with a pocket mask.
There have been a number of other adjustments that we’ve had to make, but the good news is that everyone has been very cooperative. We’ve seen the consequences of bad behavior: over 300,000 lives lost, and the pandemic still raging out of control. It is my sincere hope that more people will engage in safe behavior until everyone has the opportunity to get vaccinated. Until then, please be diligent in your efforts to stay away from people who are not part of your household, wear your mask anytime you’re not at home, and stay home if you have any Covid-19 symptoms.
Let’s hope for a more “normal” 2021!!
EWU Aquatic Center Manager