Those hoping to escape the summer heat by using pools operated by the city of Bakersfield just have to wait a bit longer.
The city plans to reopen McMurtrey Aquatic Center, Jefferson Pool, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Pool and Silver Creek Pool by Mid-July at the latest. While city staff are hard at work ensuring the pool reopenings comply with health guidelines, Recreation and Parks Director Dianne Hoover said if all goes well, local pools could even be reopened by July 6.
“We’re really, really trying hard in getting things up and running,” she said. “The good news is that many of our lifeguards that worked with us last year want to return. We won’t have to retrain for the lifeguard training, just training for COVID and other training for staff.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states there's no evidence COVID-19 can be spread to people through water in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds.
"Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus," the CDC wrote on its website.
Still, risk of spread through the air and on surfaces remains.
The city reopened its spray parks last Wednesday after the state released health guidelines detailing behavior and protocols that must be followed in order for the facilities to be operated with a lower risk of spreading coronavirus. The state also released guidelines for reopening day camps and pools the same day, but Hoover said the rules were much more complex when compared to spray parks.
“We’re looking at everything,” she said. “It is a very long list and it’s not just automatically open the doors and it’ll be the same as ever. It’s not business as usual as you’re finding out when you go to restaurants that have modified, or stores that have modified. It’s just not the same.”
The Recreation and Parks Department plans to institute a wide variety of precautions in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread. From limiting the number of people who will be allowed in the pools to asking people entering the grounds if they have a fever, the new rules will make swimming in Bakersfield’s public pools a different experience from summers past. However, up until recently the possibility existed that pools in Bakersfield wouldn't be opened at all this summer.
The city is still working out how social distancing rules will be enforced within and around the pools. Swimming lessons, too, are expected to take place this year, albeit with social distancing requirements that are still being planned out.
“We do think it is a very important part of the summer,” Hoover said. “Especially here in Bakersfield, where we have a swift-moving river. It is very important for us to teach children how to swim.”
The slides at McMurtrey won't open due to the risk of coronavirus spread.
Normally, city pools open the week after schools get out in order to employ high school and college students who make up the majority of pool staff. With a shortened summer schedule before students return to school in August, the city hopes to make the most of its pools.
“We really really are trying to get these open as soon as we can,” Hoover said. “It’s just protocols that we have to put in place and the training as well, trying to make it a safe environment for everyone that does choose to come when we do reopen.”