Aspen-area pools will be allowed to open starting Monday |

Aspen-area pools will be allowed to open starting Monday

Aspen Swim Club coach Becky Jager gives instructions during practice on April 5, 2019, at the Aspen Recreation Center pool. (Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times).
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The good news is COVID-19 won’t completely ruin the summer, and pools in Aspen and Pitkin County will be allowed to open Monday.

The bad news is, well, COVID-19 will still be around to potentially ruin the summer.

Pitkin County’s Public Health Director said Wednesday that draft guidelines issued earlier this week by the state outlining strategies for opening pools, recreation centers, sports leagues, gyms, places of worship and outfitting businesses likely will be the standard followed here beginning Monday.

“We want to really try to match our guidance with (the state’s) guidance,” county health director Karen Koenemann said. “(However) the timing will not necessarily correspond with the state.”

The state will release final guidelines on rules for pools, recreation and places of worship Thursday, though they are not expected to be significantly different from the draft guidelines issued Monday. Pitkin County will post online on the Pitkin County Public Health website by 10 a.m. Friday far more detailed guidance based on those state guidelines for the local businesses and facilities that will be allowed to open Monday.

Under the proposed state guidelines, which the public was allowed to comment on until Wednesday, outdoor pools would be limited to 50% capacity or a maximum of 50 people. Swimmers from different households will need to observe the now-familiar 6-foot distancing guidelines, while just one swimmer per lane will be allowed.

The guidelines encourage reservation systems for large outdoor pools with “recreational swims,” while surfaces in locker rooms and rest rooms must be frequently disinfected and lockers may be closed off to limit crowding, according to the guidelines.

Pitkin County officials have been working closely with Eagle County, which already has opened pools and came up with detailed guidelines for them, said Kara Silbernagel, Pikcounty policy and projects manager. Those guidelines mainly cover large, public pools like those at the Aspen Recreation Center and the Snowmass Recreation Center, she said.

“The biggest piece we’ve seen (with Eagle County’s guidelines) is to try and implement a reservation system to manage the numbers in a pool at any time,” Silbernagel said.

The main concern is “free swim” times, which generally involve kids, when social distancing becomes difficult, she said.

Other area quasi-public pools — such as those at hotels and apartment and condo complexes — will need to rely on appropriate signage reminding swimmers and sunbathers to socially distance, as well as relying on people being personally responsible and aware not to spread the virus, Silbernagel said.

Public health officials aren’t particularly worried about chlorinated water spreading COVID-19 because bromine chlorine is an effective santizer, Koenemann said. For example, there’s no risk of catching the virus by swimming underwater, she said.

“It’s not so much in the pool (risk),” Koenemann said. “It’s really contact with people in the pool that’s the issue.”

And even that is less of a concern to public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control than locker rooms and the numerous surfaces there that could transmit the virus, Silbernagel said.

“That’s where we’re the most worried,” she said.

The state of Colorado, so far, has been silent on the issue of hot tubs, Koenemann said. That may change with Thursday’s final guidelines.

Pitkin County has been granted a variance from the state to open businesses and facilities according to its “Roadmap to Reopening.” If COVID-19 cases exceed 18 in a week, the variance will be automatically revoked and restrictions could again be imposed.

Public health officials have emphasized that residents practice good hygiene, social distancing and take advantage of testing in Pitkin County for anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of ability to pay. The county has implemented an infrastructure to be able to isolate each person who tests positive for COVID-19 and trace their contacts.