AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department said it is closely collaborating with other city leaders and health officials to come up with a timeline to reopen Austin pools.
Per the COVID-19 Mayoral Declaration, aquatic facilities, swim lesson registrations and the Barkings Springs Spillway have been closed for weeks as the city works to enforce social and physical distancing policies.
The city was unable to provide a date it will reopen these amenities, saying it will continue to consult with other departments to monitor the rapidly changing situation.
The CDC reports there is no evidence COVID-19 can be spread through water. It says everyone should follow local and state guidance to determine when and how pools operate.
Experts say people should continue to protect themselves by practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene. Also, operators of pools and other recreation areas should ensure water safety and quality, including proper cleaning and disinfecting of the facilities.
The city said it hopes neighborhood and apartment pools are also closely following CDC guidelines requiring people to maintain voluntary compliance and refrain from spreading the virus unnecessarily.
An equally important stop-hold from opening up the pools is a shortage in lifeguards needed to regulate the facilities.
Lifeguard training has also been halted for the foreseeable future despite a major shortage in those trained in the position. City officials say they need 750 trained lifeguards annually but only have 234 ready to work when called.
Parks and Recreation officials said its ability to quickly train lifeguards will also be a deciding factor on the city’s pool operation schedule.
Austinites say they are ready to get back in the water and they think opening pools is a good way to return to some sense of normalcy.
“I feel like if we can go to parks and they can be open and we can maintain social distance, then same thing can go with pools,” said Kaylee Muncy who lives in Austin.
“Opening the pool and letting in a limited number of people should be something [the city] should really consider,” said Brian Cobert, who lives in Austin.
The Aquatic Division of the Parks and Recreation Department operates on a general budged of approximately $11 million. All yearly revenue from city pool operations goes to a general fund; the city anticipated approximately $4 million in revenue in fiscal year 2020.