The southeastern state of Georgia and South Carolina are the latest to announce that public pools are allowed to be reopened, with restrictions, under loosening guidelines amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Georgia’s pools officially reopened on Thursday after Governor Brian Kemp let the order to close them expire. Other venues that were grouped with pools in that prior order, including bars, nightclubs, performance venues, and amusement parks, will remain closed through the end of May.
In Georgia, public pools can reopen with 10-or-fewer people (which is the state’s new policy for most businesses and government venues). The only exception is if more than 10 people can be accommodated with at least 6 feet of space. As this applies to lap swimming, most 50 meter pools have between 19-24 short course lanes, so lap swimming could probably be set up with as many as 12 or 13 in those pools.
A spokesman for the mayor of Atlanta, the state’s largest city, said earlier this week that the city had “no plans” to open recreation facilities – including pools – in the immediate future, though was unspecific about when they would open. The city is expected to review plans from the advisory council for reopening the city next week. Like most states, local municipalities have some authority to override the states reopen plans.
The Atlanta Swimming Association, one of the largest summer leagues in the country, has still not made a decision on its summer 2020 season. The Dynamo Swim Club, one of Georgia’s (and the United States’) largest clubs, has released plans to begin practices on Thursday.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has announced that “close contact businesses,” including gyms and pools, will reopen with limited capacity on Monday, May 18th. McMaster credited this plan to an “increased capacity for testing the people of (South Carolina)” and with urging to continue to follow the advice and recommendations of public health experts.
Barber shops, ahri salons, nail salons, spas, tattoo facilities, yoga studios, barre classes, and other fitness facilities will be able to reopen then as well.
South Carolina’s public swimming pool guidelines, which can be seen in full here, are more restrictive than most. Facilities can only allow 20% of normal occupancy, or 5 people (including staff and customers) per 1000 square feet of pool and deck area, whichever is less. For example, a 50 meter pool with 10 meters of deck area on each side is about 20,000 square feet, which would mean that the pool could allow about 100 people, including staff. A 6-lane, 25-yard pool with 10 yards of deck space on each side, is about 8,000 square feet, which would allow for about 40 people, including staff.
Georgia was among the first states in the country to begin reopening, and over the last 7 days have averaged fewer than 600 confirmed cases per day – a slight decrease from the period immediately prior to reopening. Wednesday saw 24 deaths in the state caused by COVID-19, with death numbers again on a slight decreasing trend as compared to late April.
In South Carolina, Wednesday saw 103 new confirmed cases and 7 new confirmed deaths. In South Carolina’s hardest-hit areas, the rate of infection has only been about 1 in 300. By comparison, the hardest-hit areas of the country in places like New York have seen infection rates as high as 1 in 26 people.
Other States that have eased restrictions on pools: