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How to Apply COVID-19 Safety Guidelines to Aquatics


Government mandates aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus have forced the community rec industry to evaluate its safety and cleaning procedures, and make tough decisions about new protocols.

One debated topic has been whether aquatics areas should be deemed safe for members, and if so, how organizations can ensure distancing and safety guidelines are being adhered to in the pool — a space that can get crowded quickly, especially on a hot day.

The YMCA of Snohomish County in Washington has used a reservation system for the lap pools at its six fitness locations to ensure members can swim in a clean, safe and distanced environment. Per state guidelines, the Snohomish County Y is allowed a capacity of one person per lane, by reservation only.

“Each reservation is 45 minutes long and can be made on our app, website, or by calling our centralized call center,” said Donny Willeto, the director of mission advancement at the Snohomish County Y. “Lifeguards and staff have 15 minutes in between sessions to allow for cleaning and sanitizing, while members can change and exit the building.”

In addition to cleaning in between individual reservations, the Snohomish County Y closes its aquatics facilities at midday for more cleaning and sanitization and closes all its branches on Sunday for deep cleaning.

While these procedures aren’t too different than the ones that were in place before the pandemic, these extra precautions have allowed the Snohomish County Y to operate its aquatics facilities. These precautions include the requirement for lifeguards to wear masks while on duty.


Lifeguards at the Snohomish County Y are required to wear masks while on duty.

“The only exceptions to this are when they are working alone with no other staff or members present, communicating with someone hard of hearing, or when they are needing to shower or be in the pool,” explained Willeto. “But they wear their masks — our dedicated lifeguards have always held safety and cleanliness as a top priority in our natatoriums.”

The Snohomish County Y has also limited locker room usage to members who are using the pools to encourage social distancing. While the new procedures are different — and at times, inconvenient for members — they are in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. When these changes are communicated effectively and executed professionally, your members will appreciate that you’re looking out for them.

“We took the chance to implement these changes and invest in our community, and our community has been receptive, understanding and extremely grateful that the Y is still offering its services while taking the steps and actions necessary to keep them safe,” said Willeto.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former editor of Community Rec Magazine.

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