Swimming pools are part of Southern Nevada’s summer routine for Kimberley McGee and her family.
McGee and her 10-year-old twins typically meet friends at area YMCA pools every week or so. This year, they were ready to take the plunge and buy season passes to a local water park.
Problem is, nobody is sure when, or even if, water parks and pools might open, after aquatic facilities were shut down several weeks ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And if they don’t open — as they won’t in at least a few cities across the country — summer here won’t be the same.
McGee, CEO of Vegas Kids Zone, an online magazine for parents, said her children have “already asked about the pool and pretty much resigned themselves to: We’re not going to be able to go.”
If they can’t go, McGee said, “our whole summer has shrunk.”
Public aquatic facilities — including city and county pools and commercial water parks — typically are open full time by Memorial Day weekend. That’s unlikely this year, as operators and water fans alike await word from Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Representatives of Clark County, Las Vegas and Henderson said there are no firm opening dates for aquatic activities. “We follow what the governor’s recommendations are,” said Kathy Blaha, senior marketing information officer for the city of Henderson. “So we have to wait and see what they open in the next phase.”
Pools operated by homeowner associations also are closed.
Water parks wait
Water parks have at least delayed their opening dates. Cowabunga Bay Water Park also is awaiting word from Sisolak, said co-owner Shane Huish, but “we’d like to have the park open somewhere between Memorial Day weekend or June 1.”
Justin LuCore, general manager of Wet ’n’ Wild Las Vegas, said he hopes that park can open around June 15, but determining an opening date has been “a bit of a moving target.”
Another moving target has been determining the procedures and guidelines that pools and parks will follow when they do open.
“It’s been rapidly evolving over the course of the last few weeks,” said LuCore, who added that the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Southern Nevada Health District all “are coming up with guidelines and issuing those guidelines even now.”
Soaking in a chlorinated pool is, at least in theory, not a bad thing to do during the coronavirus pandemic. According to the CDC, there is “no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas.”
The health district notes on its website that if an aquatic venue is disinfected properly, the COVID-19 virus “cannot survive in the water.”
The health district — which inspects and regulates public pools and aquatic facilities, water parks, and hotel, apartment and community pools — has posted guidance for reopening pools that covers such areas as social distancing, cleaning and disinfection of surfaces.
It also urges operators and swimmers to follow social distancing guidelines, environmental health supervisor Jacquelyn Raiche-Curl said. Operators will need to “maneuver people through their facility” in ways that don’t create groups.
A common question Raiche-Curl hears is “Do you want people to wear masks?” she said. While that may be practical for guests and some employees, it wouldn’t be for a lifeguard for whom a mask can become a hazard, she said.
Smaller crowds likely
The most visible change that swimmers are likely to see are smaller crowds. Henderson’s Blaha said reduced capacity is likely at city pools. Huish suspects maximum capacities at Cowabunga also will drop, although it’s too early to say by how much.
“It’s all going to depend on what happens when we open, if people decide they want to come to the park or if they decide to stay home,” Huish said. “It may end up self-deciding.”
Cowabunga and Wet ’n’ Wild will screen guests’ temperatures when they enter. Both plan to have full-time crews sanitizing common surfaces and touch points, from snack counters to handrails on slides. Alex Barilla, Cowabunga Bay general manager, expects to double the attraction’s janitorial staff “so we can adequately disinfect on a regular schedule.”
LuCore said even dispensers for sunscreen, hand soap and sanitizer will be automatic “so we can reduce the need for guests to touch things.”
A more subtle change at Wet ’n’ Wild will be the absence of company picnics, youth sports outings and group parties.
“One hundred percent of our group business that was previously scheduled has been canceled at the request of the people who scheduled it,” LuCore said. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are not targeting group business at this time.”