Local YMCA pools adjusting to pandemic safety protocols

Local YMCA pools adjusting to pandemic safety protocols

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In order to follow COVID-19 guidelines, YMCAs have had to change the way pools operate. 

Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA

At the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA, a major change has been the number of swimmers allowed in the pool at one time. 

“We went from open swims and running programs with six children in a swim lesson and having 50 to 60 swimmers in a pool at a time to having one lap swimmer per lane,” said Cathy Lewis, aquatics director. 

Over the summer, swim lessons took place outdoors and the swim team practices relocated to Maloney High School, so it would be easier to spread swimmers out for social distancing purposes. 

Right now, the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA is using its indoor pool. The swim team is now split in half, with half using the YMCA facility and the other half still at the high school. 

Everything at the pool is run by appointment only, and all equipment is cleaned between each appointment. All lifeguards have to wear masks and swim instructors wear shields when teaching. 

“If you have a lap swimmer come in, they put their bag in a certain spot, they do their laps, everything they touch, equipment, has to be cleaned,” Lewis said. “The railings have to be cleaned, the stool they put their stuff on has to be cleaned, the door handles have to be cleaned, so it’s constant cleaning.” 

Over time, the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA has increased its lap swimmers to two per lane, one at each end. Swim lessons are back indoors, operating in every other lane at half capacity. 

Southington-Cheshire Community YMCA

The Southington Community YMCA pool initially shut down when the pandemic first began and reopened around June 22. All life guards had to be retested before the pool could reopen to the community. 

Group swim lessons are now running after a summer of just holding private swim lessons. 

“Our group lessons are very small compared to what we’ve ever had before,” said Barbara Glaude, aquatics director. “So the swimmers are all required to be six feet apart, so they swim six feet apart, they have to sit six feet apart and so the groups are extremely small, but we are happy to report that it is working.” 

Three swim teams also have been sharing the pool as well — the high school team, the Southington Braves and the Cheshire Seadogs. 

When entering the YMCA, everyone goes through a temperature screening and questionnaire. Everyone must wear a mask until they start swimming, but swim instructors, coaches and staff wear the masks even in the water. 

For lap swimming, only one or two people can use a lane, however, lanes can be shared between family members. Laundry baskets are also on deck for people to put their personal belongings in. Sanitization happens in between. 

“We have 30-plus laundry baskets on the pool deck so we can constantly rotate,” Glaude said.

While Glaude is planning on operating the pool the same way until protocols change, she is happy kids are getting back in the water.

“Getting the kids back in the pool for swim lessons has been massively huge for us,” Glaude said. “I’m a huge believer in the safety of children around water and keeping kids safe around water.”

Wallingford Family YMCA

After reopening its pool, the Wallingford Family YMCA started off just offering lap swim to its members, with one person per lane. In August, swim lessons were reintroduced. 

“We cut the ratios (of swim lesson capacity) in half and we’re now offering more private and household swim lessons,” said Margaret O’Connor, aquatics director. “... Our instructors are wearing face masks, face shields. Usually we don’t have parents in the water for our advanced levels, but if the parent does not want an instructor close to their child or they want to be able to do it on their own, we’re now allowing parents to be in the water with them, which is going actually really well.” 

Custom group lessons are also offered. This means that a group of people that spends time together often can request a group swim lesson time. 

Health surveys and temperature checks are required upon arrival. Showering is also required before entering the pool. Between every program, every 30 to 45 minutes, is 15 minutes of deep cleaning. 

“The life guards and instructors go around and sanitize the entire pool deck, all touch points, everything, all equipment,” O’Connor said. “... The pool deck is getting cleaned at least every 30 minutes if not more.” 

O’Connor said the Wallingford YMCA is following all CDC guidelines and USA Swimming protocols and will keep a close eye out for when the pool can start offering more to its community members. 

“I hope to allow families to be able to be active again,” O’Connor said. “... I just want to keep the kids engaged, parents have that time to be with their kids or even if it’s that 30 minutes where they are in a swim lesson, so they have their down time. Whatever we can do to bring some normalcy back into it.” 

jsimms@record-journal.com203-317-2208Twitter: @jessica_simms99

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