Just in Time for Summer – Department of Health Guidance on Opening Swimming Pools and Summer Camps

May 27, 2020
Aaron S. Marines

For weeks, associations, municipalities, children’s day camps and public swimming pool organizations have been trying to decide if they could open summer recreation facilities such as pools, parks and playgrounds.  The state has only recently released directions on how to open businesses, like construction, in a socially distant way.

Going into the Memorial Day weekend, it was unclear whether any of these facilities could be open if a county were in the “yellow phase” of the Governor’s COVID-19 classification.

Pennsylvania Guidelines

Luckily, the Pennsylvania Department of Health published some guidance that clarifies:

[S]ummer programs that provide child care and enrichment and recreational activities for children and youth are permitted to operate without a waiver in counties in the yellow and green phases of the Governor’s phased-in reopening plan….

The Department of Health guidance also allows swimming pools to operate so long as they comply with CDC guidance.  The CDC Guidance applies to pools that are operated and managed by:

  • city or county governments
  • apartment complexes
  • membership clubs (for example, gyms)
  • schools
  • waterparks
  • homeowners’ associations

However, the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s guidance is subject to any state or local governmental restrictions too.  Pennsylvania does not permit gyms to be open.  This regulation means that a summer camp program for kids can operate and use the inside pool at the gym, even if the regular members might not be able to use it yet.  Apartment buildings, condominium associations and homeowners’ associations, municipal swimming pools and private clubs can also open their pools for the summer.

Federal Guidelines

The CDC Guidance for Public Aquatic Venues does not limit the number of people who can use a swimming pool.  It stresses social distancing, such as keeping lounge chairs and tables at least six feet apart.  The Guidance also emphasizes properly disinfecting any shared equipment.  It suggests keeping “clean” chairs separate from chairs that need to be cleaned.  And the Guidance recommends lots of reminders about washing hands and all of the other practices needed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The CDC Guidance will probably change the way that swimming pools and summer recreation programs operate.  Instead of wiping down tables at the end of the day, staff or patrons will need to wipe or disinfect them between uses.  But with these new directions, at least associations and summer programs can start planning to operate for the summer.

Aaron Marines is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from Widener University and practices in a variety of areas including BusinessCommercial Real EstateLand Use, Land Planning and Zoning matters.