With the summer months set to begin and parents searching for recreational opportunities for their kids, the Lifesaving Society, Saskatchewan Branch, has unveiled a set of guidelines for reopening swimming pools and waterfronts in the province.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has generated questions and concerns about potential exposure to the virus when aquatic facilities and waterfronts reopen.
The reopening document for pools and waterfront was developed to assist owners and operators of aquatic facilities in minimizing the risk of the virus transmission to employees and patrons once they are able to open,” Shelby Rushton, CEO of Lifesaving Society, Saskatchewan Branch said in a release.
Traditionally, aquatic facilities open for the summer season in late May and early June. There is a considerable amount of work and time that goes into opening a pool such as hiring and training staff, ordering chemicals and lesson materials, filling and balancing the water and so much more.
Now, with the COVID-19 restrictions, additional training of the use of extra personal protective equipment (PPE), changing of rescue procedures to minimize virus transmission and setting up physical distancing procedures will be required.
These restrictions and procedures are important and the Lifesaving Society emphasizes that opening community pools will be a major undertaking and require significant human resource and financial resources. At the same time, if pools are not opened soon, then children will not have the opportunity to learn to swim this summer nor the chance to swim in a safe, lifeguard-supervised environment.
The Saskatchewan government has indicated that aquatic facilities will be opened during Phase 4, but no date has been set so far for swimming pools. Manitoba pools opened on June 1 and Alberta pools were scheduled to open on June 12.
“Both of these provinces only were given a week’s notice for reopening, which, in my opinion, is not enough,” Rushton said.
“We are hoping to hear of an opening date this week from the government, with at least a three week window of preparation before the official opening date.”
Rushton explained that with the knowledge that there will be a shorter season, fewer patrons, and more training for lifeguards leaves operators the difficult decision of whether they should open or not for the summer. Many operators are at the verge of closing their facilities for the summer since they will not be able properly reopen in such a short period of time.
“We recognize how important swimming pools are in communities throughout the province and we are hoping that they can open soon,” said Rushton. “Children need recreational activities and learning to swim can lead to saving lives so that’s why we’ve worked so hard to develop guidelines to assist with their re-opening.”
The guidelines can be viewed at https://www.lifesavingsociety.sk.ca/about-us/lifesaving-society-covid-19-update/.