The general chairs of 5 USA Swimming Local Swimming Committees (LSCs) have sent a joint letter to California governor Gavin Newsom asking him to authorize the reopening of lap swimming and supervised swimming practices in private, public, and school facilities across the state.
“We are writing you on behalf of more than 40,000 athletes and 440 small business owners with 3400 employees in California that are registered members of USA Swimming,” the letter reads. “We represent a monthly $10 million loss on small business wages, and the facilities across our state are losing $2.5 million monthly in revenue from our not being able to swim.”
Among the commitments they made as part of the request includes returning with a maximum pool density of 25-30% of traditional levels and not sharing equipment between swimmers during a practice. The LSCs also committed their coaches to enforce physical distancing among athletes and to limit the number of coaches on deck to help maintain physical distances, along with control entrance/exit and bathroom use.
The LSC chairs laid out their claims regarding the ability to safely return to swimming. Among their arguments:
- Both the CDC and NIH are comfortable that the disease cannot be spread in properly maintained chlorinated water.
- Scientific studies have shown that the virus will not live outside for more than a few minutes at the temperatures that the outdoor California pools experience; thus further minimizing the risk to the athletes and coaches.
- Swimming is inherently a “solo” sport and easily lends itself to physical distancing.
“We greatly appreciate your thoughtful leadership through this coronavirus pandemic,” the letter says. “You have saved so many lives and are focused on making good business decisions using science and data. USA Swimming and the impacted athletes, business owners or teams, and employees truly believe that we can safely return to the pool now without jeopardizing the “new” normal (life) that all Californians want and deserve.”
The request to specifically allow the opening of school pools is key here, as the state’s public schools are closed until the new academic year and many pools are located at schools. The fate of those pools might be more dependent on money than willpower, given that a new budget plan released by Newsom earlier this month has left many districts scrambling to find funding. The reopening of school pools could be dependent on their ability to break even financially based on club rental fees alone, as districts that have been hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic won’t be keen to subsidize their operations.
Earlier this week, California advanced its reopening procedure, including preparing to move the whole state into Stage 3 of Newsom’s four-stage recovery plan. Once stage 3 comes, which Newsom says will be “weeks not months,” some sports leagues may be able to return to action with “modifications and very prescriptive conditions.”
Stage 2, which 25 California counties have moved into, allows fewer restrictions on outdoor activities, including allowing golf and tennis, but does not allow pool swimming.
In California, counties advance through the stages of the reopening plan based on a set of criteria that includes a daily percent change of new cases of less than 5%, or no more than 20 total hospitalizations over the last 14 days, and less than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the past 14 days.
California, which was one of the first states to enact strict social distancing guidelines, has recorded almost 84,000 positive tests for coronavirus resulting in 3,425 deaths. California, while having the largest population of any state in the U.S., has only the 5th-most positive tests for coronavirus infection and just the 8th-most deaths.
While every state in the U.S. has eased coronavirus restrictions to some degree, many of those plans do not yet include pools. So far, at least 17 U.S. states have announced a plan for some easing of restrictions on pools.
At least 1 team in California, the Mission Viejo Nadadores, has returned to training, albeit apparently outside of the bounds of the statewide restrictions.
Led by a $1 million pledged distribution by the Pacific Swimming LSC, the 5 represented LSCs that signed this letter have combined to commit over $2.2 million in funding to their member clubs.
UPDATED LIST OF POOL REOPENINGS
- Alabama – 50% capacity (May 11)
- Alaska – 50% capacity
- Arizona – 50% capacity (May 15)
- Arkansas – 50% capacity (May 22)
- Delaware – Community Pools at 20% capacity, no swim lessons or team practices (May 22)
- Florida – some localities have allowed pools to begin to reopen under a patchwork of restrictions
- Indiana – Adhering to Social Distancing Guidelines (May 24)
- Georgia – 10 or fewer people, or 6 feet of space per person (May 14)
- Kentucky – Pools designated for training or exercise can reopen (June 1)
- Louisiana– Lap Swimming can resume at 25% capacity
- Massachussetts – Outdoor pools Can Reopen in Phase 2 (as early as June 8), Indoor pools can reopen in Phase 3 (as early as late June)
- Mississippi – six feet apart
- North Carolina – “contemplating allowing pools in phase 2” (May 22)
- Ohio – CDC Guidelines (May 26)
- South Carolina – Smaller of 20%/5 people per 1000 square feet (May 18)
- Texas – 25% capacity
- Virginia – Outdoor lap Swimming only, 1-per-lane (May 15)
- Wyoming – 1 person per lane