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Illinois agencies unsure about reopening pools amid pandemic

May 16, 2020 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois park districts are uncertain whether public pools can safely open this season due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has disrupted schedules for summer programming.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s five-phase plan to reopen the state does not include guidelines for opening pools, the Chicago Tribune reported.

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The Chicago Park District announced last week that it will offer a shortened summer camp season beginning July 6.

Carrie Fullerton, executive director for Arlington Heights Park District said pools will not open on Memorial Day as usual. But other decisions have yet to be made.

The park district in Wheeling closed its Family Aquatic Center for the year, according to its website.

University of Chicago chief epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon said she thinks that pools will be one of the last places to open.

There is no evidence that the coronavirus can spread through waters at pools, hot tubs or water parks, and “proper operation and disinfection” should kill the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

“I mean, (pool disinfection is) meant to kill a lot of things that are significantly hardier, in the microbiologic world, than coronavirus,” Landon said.

Landon added it would be difficult to social distance in a pool, noting that kids play together at the pool. There are also other concerns, such as safely handling concession stand food, disinfecting bathrooms and establishing protocols for lifeguards.

Private swim schools may be able to adapt social distancing guidelines much better than public facilities.

“The learn-to-swim industry is obviously different than water parks,” said Bob Ryan, owner of Goldfish Swim School’s Wicker Park and Roscoe Village locations. The school closed its Chicago locations a few days before the governor’s stay-at-home order took effect in March.

Ryan said the CDC has been working with swim schools to make sure instructors are teaching students in a safe way.

“We’re starting to work up to amend our curriculum and amend our policies to give the best customer experience within those guidelines,” Ryan said.