WAYNE, NJ – In the midst of a mini-heatwave, the opening of the James Roe Pool in Wayne came just in time, providing cool relief and unofficially kicking off summer. With the sounds of splashing, children’s laughter and shouts of joy; with sunlight reflecting off moving water and the smell of sunscreen in the air, Wayne residents flocked to their public pool, not only to cool off, but to escape the boredom of months spent at home and from the daily worries of a global pandemic.
It looked like a completely normal day at the James Roe pool, but that sense of normalcy took some preparation and new rules to keep everyone as safe as possible from COVID-19.
“[The new normal] arises with a lot of questions,” said Rich Basilicato, one of the pool’s managers. “If a big crowd comes in, you got to find a way to keep everyone safe and socially distanced. We had to come up with a lot of new guidelines as far as keeping things sanitized.”
Some of these measures include limiting capacity, cleaning deck chairs between member use, encouraging masks when moving around the facility and requiring social distancing. Although there were questions over how members would respond to a somewhat different pool experience, Basilicato says that pool goers have risen to the occasion.
“They’ve been great. They listen when we ask them to do things, and they’re very nice. It’s: ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘no problem,’” Basilicato said.
The appreciation has been reciprocated by pool members who say that the pool staff has made the transition to the new normal seamless.
“They’ve done a great job,” pool-goer Diana Leshowitz said, noting that she didn’t see a lot of difference between this year and last year. “It feels just like being at the pool in the summer.”
The reopening of the town pool does not only symbolize a start to summer in Wayne. For some, it represents a “light at the end of the tunnel” in the state’s fight against coronavirus.
“We’re almost there, and we’re all moving forward together. There’s hope here,” said Michelle Gutierrez who was enjoying her time in the warm sunshine with her family.
Moving forward, the hope is that the curve continues to bend downward, allowing for more restrictions to be eased such as members bringing guests and slides reopening. But what comes next is ultimately up to the virus and guidance from state leaders and health experts.
But these thoughts were not in the minds of the adults who lounged along the perimeter of the pool or sat on the edge with their feet splashing in the water. For them, this was an escape from the thoughts of a pandemic, of worry and fear. For them, this was a small slice of ‘normal’ that had been missing from their lives over the last three months.
Jon "Ferris" Meredith contributed to this article.