Pennsylvanians may have to turn to sprinklers, air conditioners and ice cream to keep cool this summer.
Gov. Wolf’s decision Thursday to extend the state’s stay-at-home order for “red” counties means Northampton and Lehigh counties will remain shut down until at least June 4. The announcement adds even more uncertainty to the already jeopardized summer pool season, however some local municipalities aren’t waiting for detailed guidance from the state on whether or not to open their aquatic facilities.
Both Hellertown borough and the Borough of Fountain Hill have decided not to open their pools this year.
At their May 4 meeting, Fountain Hill Borough Council members decided to bag the borough’s summer recreation program, including the operation of the swimming pool.
Council members said they were worried that residents might not feel comfortable using the pool this summer, and also cited staffing issues and the cost of filling and maintaining the pool as reasons to keep the pool closed for the summer.
There is currently no evidence that the novel coronavirus poses a threat to anyone swimming in chlorinated pool water alone, but the fear expressed by recreation officials throughout the country is that social distancing requirements needed to stop the spread of COVID-19 will be difficult to enforce in the water, particularly with limited staff.
“We’ll be looking forward to next year when we can hopefully get these programs running,” said Fountain Hill council president Leo Atkinson of the Stanley Avenue pool.
The City of Bethlehem has not yet decided whether it will open its five public swimming pools, but those involved in the decision-making are watching the news carefully, according to Jodi Evans, Director of the Recreation Bureau. Mayor Bob Donchez hopes to make a decision prior to Memorial Day, Evans said.
“We want to make things happen, but we also want to make sure that we’re following the guidelines that the federal and state government have put in place,” she continued.
The Recreation Bureau manages five pools including Clearview Pool, Memorial Pool, Stark Pool, Westside Pool and Yosko Pool. The bureau also operates the Sand Island Tennis Courts and more than 30 city parks.
Evans said the United States Tennis Association has provided helpful guidelines on how tennis players and tennis facility operators can ensure health and safety while keeping courts open. She said the bureau has been following the recommendations, and has posted the guidelines at the city’s courts. Evans hopes to be able to use similar guidance if the city receives approval to open its swimming pools.
“We’re hoping that when the pool decision is made that there will be some guidance from the CDC or anybody else who is an expert in that field,” Evans said.
Lower Macungie Township announced on April 27 that it will not be opening its pool for the 2020 season. The announcement, which appeared on the township’s website, cited COVID-19 restrictions on major repair and construction work, as well as limitations and guidelines for pool operation as reasons for the closure.
The Memorial Park Pool in Bangor will also be closed for the 2020 season due to “ongoing COVID-19 concerns and restrictions.”
In Hellertown, borough officials said it would not be possible to open the pool “due to COVID-19 and the requirements set forth by the CDC and the State Department of Health.”
This will be the first summer in 15 years that the Hellertown Pool has not opened.
After sustaining heavy damage from a flash flood caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, the pool was closed for repairs during the summer of 2005.