By JOHN HOWELL Michael Thaler and some of the many friends he's made over the years as a swimmer were outside McDermott Pool Tuesday afternoon in a demonstration of unity to get back into the water. That doesn't look like it is going to happen soon. For
Michael Thaler and some of the many friends he’s made over the years as a swimmer were outside McDermott Pool Tuesday afternoon in a demonstration of unity to get back into the water.
That doesn’t look like it is going to happen soon.
For starters, the pool has been drained for routine maintenance – painting and caulking – and given the uncertainty caused by the pandemic there’s no need to keep it filled and chlorinated if it’s closed, according to the mayor’s office. The pool closed in March with the COVID shutdown. It continued to operate until now although closed.
But even if filled with sparkling clear water, Mayor Joseph Solomon has reservations about reopening it because of COVID. He said Tuesday he is not going to feel comfortable until there’s a green light from the CDC and the Department of Health.
Nonetheless, area public pools have reopened, including that at the Kent County YMCA.
“I’m not willing to gamble with one person’s health,” Solomon said in a telephone interview. Furthermore, he pointed out, “If there is one outbreak, they’ll be pointing the finger at me.”
Thaler is frustrated not to get any answers from City Hall. He had a log of calls that included talks with people in the mayor’s office and the prospect of a meeting with Solomon that never happened.
Before COVID, Thaler arrived almost daily at the pool at 5:20 a.m. to be there when the doors unlocked at 5:30. He wasn’t alone. He said there were 12 in the group ranging in age from the mid-60s to early 90s. Some swam laps while others did aerobics.
“The pool is really a heaven,” he said. Thaler reasons, as do others who joined him Tuesday afternoon, “we’re not babies. We can decide what we want to do.” He thought regulations being used by other pools, such as swimming by appointment, separating swimming lanes and closing off locker rooms, made sense and could be applied at McDermott.
Thaler has read CDC regulations, which he said “don’t specify anything.”
“None of us are revolutionaries. We want to get back in the pool.” He suggests putting a delegation together and sitting down with the administration to work out a safe reopening plan.
Alice Pate, who has been swimming at McDermott for the past 21 years, is resigned that McDermott won’t reopen before January and when it does she wants to be sure that it is clean and safe.
Rita Laferriere, also a veteran of at least 20 years, nodded.
“I don’t know how to swim,” she announced with a hint of pride. The group verified her declaration, with some relating that when she started out she was fearful of letting the water reach her neck. Laferriere does water aerobics to stay fit.
Ken Hird said the pool is more than a place to exercise. He said it offers a social component that brings people together. As for reopening, he questioned why some of the people working at the Mickey Stevens Sports Complex don’t come up with ideas to reopen the facility.
Steve O’Donnell, director of the Greater Providence YMCA, said pools at six Y branches are open by appointment. Pool use is restricted to lap swimming and no more than two people – sufficiently distanced – are permitted per lane. Swimmers are required to shower before entering the pool and they leave without showering. He said showers are sanitized between uses by the staff. The lifeguard on duty assists with the cleaning.
O’Donnell said the Y swim teams practice during off hours and that the Y is making its pools available for rental provided proper guideline and precautions are followed.
Mayor Solomon could not say if McDermott would be open for Hendricken and Warwick swim teams should that program take place later this fall.