Well, if it’s any meager consolation, one good thing could be said about this pandemic: Yankton picked a really good summer to have its outdoor swimming pool out of commission.
The COVID-19 outbreak has cast doubt on practically every facet of life that we usually take for granted, and with summer looming, swimming pools are yet another item drawing a lot of second thoughts.
On Monday night, the Vermillion City Council announced that its popular Prentis Plunge aquatic center would not open in 2020. The simple fear of the COVID-19 virus is, obviously, the overriding reason, but according to the Vermillion Plain Talk, city officials are also concerned that the cost of thoroughly cleaning the facility regularly (most likely, daily) could be cost prohibitive.
“Things that we would have to do to make the pool safe or safer for people, I believe, would make an already fairly costly amenity even more costly and less accessible to many citizens,” Vermillion Mayor Kelsey Collier-Wise said during Monday’s City Council meeting.
This concern is not isolated, of course. Earlier Monday, Sioux Falls announced that it would not open its eight municipal swimming pools this summer due to COVID-19 containment efforts.
Indeed, this is almost certainly a concern in every community with a swimming pool. The extremely contagious nature of the COVID-19 coronavirus makes operating a pool a risky and even more expensive venture. It’s not so much a question of the water transmitting the virus as it is the restroom and shower facilities and other areas where people congregate.
Of course, keeping one pool open when swimming pools in surrounding communities are closed could also invite problems. Collier-Wise noted Monday night that the closure of the Sioux Falls pools might lure some of those people to the Vermillion aquatic facility if it opened. And that opens up more interaction with people from elsewhere, which could potentially cause spreading issues, if not a little paranoia.
While Yankton doesn’t have an outdoor swimming pool at its disposal this summer — again, this is a tremendous break — it DOES have an indoor pool to work with. It appears city officials will be very restrictive on who can use this, and there will be social distancing and other safety measures.
For every community, it’s essential to keep public health and safety first and foremost in any calculations. If local officials decide to open the pool, it must be done in a very controlled fashion. If officials choose NOT to open their swimming pools this summer, they really can’t be blamed.
The consequences behind these decisions go beyond locking or unlocking doors, so to speak. If a pool or aquatic center remains closed, that means individuals who planned to work at those locations as lifeguards, concession vendors, etc., will be out of a job this summer. It means families will have to plan other daily activities for their kids.
Swimming pools are a sidebar in the pandemic storyline — one more element of everyday, normal life impacted by a coronavirus — but the matter is not unimportant given the health considerations that need to be made.