WESTFIELD, NJ — For Lonnie Meiner, it finally feels like summer.
The 54-year-old Westfield resident sat back in his beach chair inside his social distancing circle — the latest addition to the Westfield Memorial Pool — explaining how it felt good to be back.
“It's a little weird, but it's good to start getting back to normal,” he said, sunglasses on and football in hand. He added: “The circles are good because it's gonna help people keep their distance.”
Meiner was one of many thinking about precautions to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus at Westfield Memorial Pool, which opened for the summer season on Saturday as the state continues to reopen, and Westfield adjusts to the new normal.
From pool reservations to ubiquitous signage reminding members to keep social distance, signs of the coronavirus lingered for residents returning to the pool for summer fun. Operating in two hour increments, the pool closed for a half hour every two hours to sanitize benches, bathrooms and other surfaces that could be vectors of transmission.
“We have all the normal everyday things we have to worry about operating a pool facility like this, but COVID, of course, adds more to it,” said Westfield Aquatic Supervisor Heather Re, speaking through an orange face mask.
The pool was a far cry from its typical capacity. Re said memberships were reduced by around half this year, presumably due to the coronavirus — as state guidelines capped capacity at 250 people, increasing to 500 people on July 3.
“[It’s] actually a lot easier as far as lifeguarding goes because of the limited number of guests,” said Wyatt Miller, a 19-year-old lifeguard at the pool, through his lifeguard bandana face covering. “It's easier to manage.”
State guidelines also restrict some pool attractions until early July — leaving water slides dry, diving boards empty and the splash pad powered off — disappointing some pool goers.
“I feel really bad that it’s closed now,” said 7-year-old Leo Tagliaferro talking about the closed water slides, which he said was his favorite part of the pool.
How many times would he go on it when it reopened?
“Maybe like 30,” he said with a grin.
Despite the rules and restrictions, though, it was almost business as usual. Parents lounged on pool chairs catching up on summer reading while kids giggled and splashed in the water.
“As long as we have everyone laughing and having a good time, you almost forget about COVID when you're in the pool every once in a while,” Re said.
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