Following Gov. Greg Abbott’s May 6 executive order allowing swimming pools to operate at 25% capacity, Spring- and Klein-area homeowners associations are evaluating reopening processes for the upcoming summer season.
Some communities, such as the Cypressdale subdivision in Spring, have decided to reopen pool services, Cypressdale HOA Treasurer Cherise Scally said.
According to Scally, the subdivision opened the neighborhood pool last weekend but had to cancel its annual Memorial Day pool party as a result of the coronavirus-related restrictions.
“With all the regulations that are changing daily, it's been a constant struggle,” Scally said. “I didn't want to cancel anything or postpone the opening unless we had no choice, and of course, we had no choice.”
While pool passes are now on sale for residents, Scally said the area can only accept 35 patrons at a time, in accordance with the governor’s guidelines. Additionally, the subdivision has had to increase staff operations to regularly sanitize restrooms and other area surfaces and has had to remove pool furniture.
“Basically, all we've had to worry about is the sanitation of the bathrooms, making sure [patrons] bring their own furniture—their own chairs, whatever they need—and shutting down the baby pool and the slide.”
Following Gov. Abbott’s May 26 announcement allowing waterparks to reopen under Phase Two of the state’s gradual reopening plan, Scally said the subdivision looks forward to opening the pool’s water slide amenity.
Other community organizations, however, have decided to forego reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement, the Greenwood Forest HOA board announced the neighborhood swimming pool would remain closed for the 2020 pool season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“While studies show that chlorinated pool water kills germs, according to the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the COVID-19 virus can survive on hard surfaces for several days,” the statement read. “Therefore, hand sanitizer stations would need to be purchased and placed throughout the pool area, pool furniture would be removed and the diving board would be closed.”
According to the CDC, while chlorine acts as a disinfectant when added properly to swimming pool water, the chemical can take a few minutes to kill most germs.
According to Kenneth Latimer, Greenwood Forest HOA board president, additional staff would also be required to properly sanitize surfaces, such as hand rails and restrooms areas, putting them at risk of contracting the virus.
“Taking the medical, the safety, the financial things all into mind, we took what we thought was a well-thought-out but conscious approach and decided to close for the year,” Latimer said.
Royce Shamblin, general manager of Southwest Pool Management, said his company has seen around 20-30 swimming pools open in the Houston area—around 50% of the business’s total clientele. Shamblin said his company has had to implement additional measures to encourage coronavirus safety amid the reopenings.
“There's additional signage that's having to be placed at the pools,” Shamblin said. “There are capacity percentages. ... They're still following social distancing inside the pool area, recommending that people wear masks even though we can't enforce that.”
As a result of the pandemic, however, Shamblin said the pool management company saw a slowdown in lifeguard applications in April.
“It started out very slow as far as applications for the year, and of course, we have returning lifeguards who come back every year to work the summers, but as far as new applicants go, it started out very slow, which made us question how many pools we were going to actually be able to staff,” Shamblin said.
Despite the initial slowdown, Shamblin said the pool company has not had to deny business yet, and as community water parks reopen, Shamblin said he expects more swimming pools to follow suit.
“I foresee within the next couple of weeks, we'll probably be running at almost full capacity,” Shmablin said.