On Saturday we reported that three of the largest clubs in the United States — Nation’s Capital, Rockville Montgomery and Machine Aquatics — had all suspended group practices due to the outbreak of COVID-19, and now, the biggest club in the Pacific Northwest has followed suit.
The Seattle Metropolitan Aquatic Club announced the suspension of practices on Saturday in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The club, which had over 600 members at their high-point this season, had taken preventative measures leading up to this decision — such as telling families who live with high-risk persons they should suspend themselves from practice immediately — but ultimately they did what they deemed safest amid the uncertainty.
“These decisions aren’t made lightly, and we use the best information we have — including information directly from physicians working in hospitals as well as in the overall response efforts in the Seattle area — to inform these decisions,” said SMAC President Jim Hong in an email. “In this case, we felt that we have a responsibility not just to the membership, but also to the community at large. So, we made the decision prioritizing an abundance of caution that aligns with the overall public health message that social distancing is of paramount importance right now.”
Being such a large club, Hong wanted to set an example for others that have yet to suspend operations.
“I think as the largest club in PNS and one of the clubs at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s incumbent upon us to help lead the fight to ‘flatten the curve’,” Hong said. “We believe that the most important thing we can do is to slow the spread of the disease.”
On Monday morning, Washington governor Jay Inslee issued a statewide shutdown of bars, restaurants, and recreational and entertainment facilities, and put the limit on large gatherings to 50 people. The death toll in the state of Washington reached 42 on Sunday with 772 confirmed cases.
So if practices hadn’t been cancelled on the weekend, they would’ve been by Monday.
Sent by club head coach Ken Spencer, the note announcing the suspension of practice says that dryland workouts will be sent to the swimmers that they can do at home and that they’re “exploring things we can do to keep swimmers engaged with the team and each other online.”
You can read the full note below:
In the name of public health, we’re going to suspend practice immediately for at least the next two weeks with the understanding it could go longer. Watching the kids interact at practice this morning, it’s become clear that even with low numbers at practice, it’s impossible to maintain the recommended social distance while in the lap lanes. A huge motivating factor for swimmers at practice is to interact with their teammates and staying 3-6 feet away from each other isn’t realistic.
A few weeks off in your swimming career is a temporary diversion. How many times have athletes been out of the water for several weeks due to an injury or family trip only to come back stronger? Normally, we take a week-long break after the Swim-A-Thon to give both our coaches and athletes a well-earned rest. Many families take additional time off for their Spring Breaks as well, resulting in a couple of weeks off of practice. This year, moving this break up and extending it a little is appropriate given the COVID-19 outbreak. Coaches will send out dryland workouts and suggestions for ways to improve out of the pool in the coming days.
Beyond swimming fast, we understand the social network the team provides is a huge part of many of our members lives and will be missed. It’s really important to remember we’re doing this for a part of the population that’s not as resilient and safe from this threat as we are. Great teammates do things for the bigger picture and a larger cause. We need to do that now.
We’ll reevaluate the situation in the coming weeks and determine if it’s safe and possible to resume practice.
We’ve moved the suspension date to March 27 for April swimming to give families time to make decisions moving forward.
We’ll follow up shortly with team policies on proration of Volunteer hours and other team administration, as well as swim a thon and other team events.
Coaches will follow on Monday with dryland workouts athletes can do at home for the week. We’re exploring things we can do to keep swimmers engaged with the team and each other online.
Thank you for your support and patience on this. We appreciate having all of you on the club.
The club’s first re-evaluation check-in will take place on March 27, but Hong fully expects practice to remain cancelled then. “The real question for me is looking for the ‘inflection point’ in the infection curve,” he said. “And even when the country has definitively reached that, it’s probably still weeks or maybe months before we go back to normal.”