Why Phoenix Leaders Won’t Open City Pools This Summer

By Christina Estes
Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 6:56am
Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - 7:22am

A lifeguard stands watch at a Phoenix pool.
City of Phoenix
A lifeguard stands watch at a Phoenix pool. City leaders were unable to agree on whether to open Phoenix city pools for the 2020 season.

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department director had a plan to open public pools this summer, but city leaders failed to reach an agreement and they will remain closed. 

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Director Inger Erickson told the council there’s no evidence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that COVID-19 can spread to people through pool water. She presented a plan for leaders to consider that would launch open swim sessions next month.

“We could do July 4, that would give us our 30 days time to get staff in order and get the pools filled that need water put in them, the chemicals balanced, those types of things,” she said. “And we could open 16 pools of the 29 that we normally have.”

The plan included limiting pool capacities to 25% of normal and following CDC guidelines along with practices recommended by a national parks and recreation association.

“We have plenty of staff that we could educate the kids, they would come for an hour and a half block at a time,” Erickson said. “I think there’s ways we can mitigate the social distancing between people who are not of the same family or the same household.”

She said there was funding available to offer free admission to kids 17 and younger. Councilwoman Thelda Wiliams supported opening the pools if temperatures were taken before people could enter.

“I think it’s very important we provide recreational opportunities for kids,” she said.

But several council members, including Carlos Garcia and Michael Nowakowski, felt it was the wrong move since the proposed metrics staff presented to trigger reopening various city services were not met. The metrics included, among other things: 14 straight days of decreasing positive COVID-19 cases, 14 straight days where percentage of ICU beds was maintained or decreased, 14 straight days where hospital admissions for COVID like symptoms were flat or decreased, 14 straight days of declining deaths.

The council did not vote on whether to open the pools, but Mayor Kate Gallego acknowledged there was no consensus.

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