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Sports: County OKs lap swimming, but city facilities remain closed, for now

Despite last week’s Yolo County approval of the return of lap swimming activities with new safety protocols in place, Davis pools remain closed.

Administrators from the Davis Aquatic Masters (DAM) and Davis Aquadarts (DART) — two local lap-swim groups that use public facilities — say city officials have reported to them that they are consulting with the city attorney to examine the legality of the county decision (related to state orders). In an email to DART head coach Billy Doughty, Police Chief Darren Pytel explained that reopening pools hinges on acquiring additional liability insurance to cover COVID cases.”

Meanwhile, some private aquatic facilities in compliance with county orders have already been cleared to resume business. In Davis, Swim America was given the green light to open Wednesday following inspections by County Supervisor Jim Provenza, Yolo Public Health Officer Ron Chapman and Davis City Councilman Lucas Frerichs.

Facility owner Rose Cholewinski shed light on her new safety procedures in a post to Facebook — protocols which include 10-square foot areas of the pool roped off to enforce physical distancing, visitor temperature tracking, increased sanitation/disinfection measures and reduced class sizes, among others. After training her staff to follow new county guidelines, she hopes to open in the coming days for youth water safety education classes. 

A longtime advocate of water safety training from a young age, Cholewinski fears that without supervised pools available and fewer lessons being offered nationwide, there could be an uptick in drownings this summer as large numbers of families with young children flock to rivers, lakes and beaches to escape the heat and their homes amid shelter-in-place orders. Her thoughts have been echoed by many in recent days following the tragic drowning of a 5-year-old boy, Ziyon Jamar Butler, earlier this week at Discovery Park on the Sacramento River. 

May also happens to be National Water Safety Month. 

Yolo County’s new lap-swim rules require a COVID-19 compliance supervisor remain on site, with certain guidelines adhered to in order to protect the safety of guests and employees.

Those include, but are not limited to:

• The requirement that masks be worn by those entering and exiting facilities (but not while in the water);

• Locker rooms and water fountains remaining closed, with the exception of restrooms;

• Rigorous daily cleaning protocols for all areas; 

• Limiting swimmers in the water to one per lane, with large-group workouts not yet permitted.

However, to the disappointment of many DAM swimmers, the county has directed that “individuals over the age of 65 and those with underlying medical conditions are not to engage in any of the following activities currently (OK’d).”

DAM has upwards of 150 members over 65, and the organization’s head coach Stu Kahn told swimmers via email that he has petitioned for removal of the age restrictions on organized lap swimming and, instead, floated to the county the possibility of signed health waivers from members. 

UPDATE: As of noon on Thursday, Yolo County had removed its original press release from its website and replaced it with an that no longer prohibits those 65-and-older from lap-swim activities. The updated guidelines call for pool operators to set aside dedicated lap-swim time “for those over 65 years of age and other vulnerable populations.”

The Centers for Disease Control has maintained that “there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas.”

That statement, however, is dependent on proper maintenance of pH and chemical levels, including chlorine and bromine, which the CDC has reported “should inactivate the virus in the water.”

The Aquadarts’ sister program, DART of Sacramento, has also resumed approved lap-swim activities in a smaller capacity at The Swimstitute in Rancho Cordova.

Following a comprehensive safety plan, DART-Sac head coach Brian Nabeta says his group has roughly one third of its usual number of swimmers in the water. Limiting bodies per lane, they’re having swimmers start and finish sets at opposite ends of the pool to better enforce distancing. 

Swimmers RSVP prior to attending workouts so coaches can monitor head counts and assign predetermined lanes and spots for them to leave their belongings while swimming. 

And while it might seem a little extreme — considering they’re already swimming in a chlorinated pool — Nabeta says to be extra safe they’ve asked athletes (an entire body length out from each other) to put their faces in the water as they swim past to avoid breathing directly on one another.

Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom has included public swimming as a recreational activity that may be resumed as part of the third stage of the state’s reopening process. Davis city officials originally listed June 14 as a potential reopening date for local pools. 

“We want the swimmers and families to feel safe and we’re trying to create the safest possible environment that we can,” Doughty says. “But if you’re not comfortable at this point or have a family member at home that might be at a higher risk and aren’t ready to make the transition back — we completely understand that as well.

“Right now, so many kids are stuck at home sitting in front of screens all day,” Doughty adds. “And that’s affecting their physical and mental health — making it all the more important they have an opportunity to be physically active.”

Notes: DART-Sacramento’s 21-page return-to-the water plan can be viewed at . Both the Aquadarts and DAM have created similar plans. Learn more about Swim America Davis and Cholewinski’s learn-to-swim programs at .

— Reach Owen Yancher at [email protected]. Follow him via Twitter at @530athletics

Swim America owner Rose Cholewinski has comprehensive safety measures in place at her facility in East Davis and has been cleared by Yolo County to resume youth and infant water safety training. Owen Yancher/Enterprise photo

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