SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — It has been just under two weeks since the reopening of South Orange’s Peter S. Connor Memorial Swimming Pool for the summer. Due to the continuous spread of the coronavirus, the local pool’s opening was delayed in order to ensure the safety of all residents and to prepare for the new health guidelines the facility must follow.
Although the curve of coronavirus cases has begun to flatten out in New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy is still stressing the importance of following the safety procedures set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the NJ Department of Health Guidelines. Precautions such as wearing face coverings and maintaining a safe distance of six feet apart at all times are required by the state in all public places – including pools.
Before reopening, the South Orange pool released an announcement filled with expectations for the summer. “While the governor has allowed pools to open effective June 22nd, we will be opening the pool on July 6th for the 2020 season,” the pool’s website said. “Opening on July 6th will give us time to prep the facility to comply with the NJ Department of Health’s requirements to ensure our patrons a safe swimming environment. It will also allow sufficient time to hire and train all of our staff as the 2020 pool season will look very different from prior years.”
In accordance with the CDC and the NJ Department of Health Guidelines, the South Orange public pool has adjusted some of their community rules for the summer. Along with observing social distancing regulations, the pool now only allows a maximum of 300 patrons in the facility at one time. Reservations are limited to members only and are required to gain admission into the pool for the duration of the summer. Face coverings are required for everyone at the pool with the exception of those swimming in the water and the lifeguards.
The pool is not providing chairs, water fountains, or a locker room area, as those have been deemed spots with a higher risk of transmission. All staff and patrons must test negative for a fever (below 100.4 degrees) to gain entrance into the pool area as well.
In the event that any of the safety guidelines are broken, a pool employee will issue a warning. In the case of a repeated offense, the patron breaking the rules may be asked to leave.
Sheena Collum, the president of the Township of South Orange Village, discussed the reopening during the most recent Board of Trustees meeting. “I know from what I’m hearing from residents, compliance seems to be good. I don’t know everybody, but I follow the chatter...we have a good group out there reminding people to wear their masks,” she said. “It is being strictly enforced, um not in the water but everywhere else, that we expect you to wear those face coverings and keep everybody safe.”
Despite the increased safety precautions the pool has taken to prevent the spread of the virus, some residents remain unsure about leaving the house unnecessarily during the time of a global pandemic.
South Orange resident Barbara Zelenka said that although she and her husband have a pool membership for the summer, they have not gone yet. “I signed us up, but as soon as we were pretty much ready to go, my husband decided it didn’t sound safe,” Barbara explained. “I felt fine about the whole thing, but I have a feeling he is not going to change his mind for the rest of this summer.”
President Sheena Collum said during the Board of Trustees meeting that if there is a spike in cases, the town will take whatever steps necessary to stop the spread. She added that new regulations like the ones the pool is taking will eventually become a part of daily life for everyone. “This is going to be the new normal for people as they are out and about and engaging in more social activity than they have over the past three months,” she said.
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