In the same week as the University of Arizona announced a pause on returning student-athletes to campus, the state has rolled back some of its pool opening orders in an effort to curb a spike in new cases in the state.
The new orders, which can be read in full here, include the following new information about pools.
Pools may continue to operate as follows:
Pools operated as part of a public accommodation, such as those at hotels but not those at multi-housing complexes, shall prohibit groups larger than 10 from congregating together in or near the pool.
Privately owned pools located in public areas such as those at multi-housing complexes or other privately owned facilities may continue to be open provided that signage is included at all entrances to the pool reminding people to maintain physical distance and that groups larger than 10 should not congregate.
According to a representative from the Arizona COVID-19 hotline contacted by SwimSwam on Tuesday, the limits on more than 10 congregating will extend to municipal pools as well. When asked specifically about how to define a congregation, as in if there could be 10 swimmers at each end of a 50 meter pool, the representative reiterated the language about congregations of 10 and directed us to local police departments for further clarification.
Arizona pools were first allowed to reopen on May 13 at 50% capacity.
Municipal pools fall under the first part of the directive, though it seems as though a patchwork of regulations that may or may not align with the state’s have developed.
The City of Mesa, for its part, is limiting its facilities to no more than 50 people total in entire facilities, including coaches, lifeguards, and staff, in light of the new order. Mesa is home to some of the country’s biggest municipal aquatics centers. That includes two nearly-identical facilities at the Skyline Aquatic Center and the Kino Aquatic Center. Those facilities include a 50-meter pool, a separate diving well, and a separate shallow water pool, all outdoors. The Skyline Aquatic Center has been a regular hosting stop on the USA Swimming Pro Swimming Series circuit until recently.
Neighboring Gilbert, Arizona updated its guidance that “all Gilbert community pools will have reduced capacity to 25%” and that “registered activities, such as swimming lessons, will continue with physical distancing modifications previously implemented.”
Phoenix already closed its 29 public pools and 9 splash pads for the entire summer and through the high school season prior to the new order.
Local USA Swimming clubs in Arizona contacted by SwimSwam on Tuesday all said that they were still working with their local municipalities to figure out what, exactly, this means for swim teams. It’s possible that will be flexibility to consider swim teams to fall under youth sports and activities guidelines rather than pool guidelines.
In addition, indoor gyms and fitness clubs or centers, water parks, and tubing operators must pause operations until July 27, 2020.
Bars and movie theaters are also closed until July 27th.
The new order will remain in place until further notice and will be considered for repeal or revision every two weeks after July 27, 2020.
The state has also delayed the start of in-person instruction until August 17th, which in turn also delays school-related athletics and activities until the same date, the AIA says. Arizona schools usually resume instruction in the first full week of August, and many had planned to start as soon as late July. Most schools have stopped voluntary summer athletics workouts.
On Sunday, Arizona reported a new record of 3,809 new positive cases for coronavirus. In the early months of the global pandemic, the state was relatively-unscathed, even seeing a decline in cases to around 200 per day in the latter days of May. A spike over the last month, however, has left Arizona with almost 80,000 total cases, ranking it 10th among US states (Arizona is ranked 16th in the US by population).
Arizona, like many states, has seen a spike in new cases and hospitalizations but hasn’t seen a rise in deaths at the same level. Arizona’s has reported just under 40 new deaths per day over the last week, which is an increase from around 20 in the weeks prior. While the number of deaths has doubled, the number of new infections has increased 10-fold.
Experts hypothesize that the lack of a corresponding increase in deaths can be attributed to a number of factors. That includes theories that there is a lag, with a larger spike in deaths coming in the next few weeks; a shift in the demographic of those being infected to younger people less likely to die, combined with improvements in isolating elderly care facilities with the most vulnerable people from infection.
While other municipalities have rolled back pool opening in response to increases in cases, Arizona is the first state to have announced a rollback.