Reopen RI Pools
Reopen RI Pools
According to the CDC, properly chlorinated pools effectively kill coronaviruses*. When my team practiced throughout the summer and fall, the locker rooms were closed, there were plexiglass shields between the lanes at either end of the pool, and masks were worn until we jumped into the pool and as soon as we got out. We adhered to all group size limits and social distancing guidelines. As a result, no virus transmission occurred during my practices. Whether it's competitive training, aqua therapy, or lessons, swimming in chlorinated pools is not a high risk activity, and closing pools is doing more harm than good, especially for the kids in our state.
I don't think I have ever met a kid in Rhode Island that hasn't been to the beach. Growing up in a state with over 400 miles of coastline, kids are bound to jump in the ocean, whether they know how to swim or not. Between 2014 and 2018, 19% of injury-related deaths in kids ages 1 to 14 in Rhode Island were due to drownings**. To cancel winter swim lessons before a summer where people are bound to be outside more than ever is a fatal decision for Rhode Island kids. In addition, rates of pediatric obesity are rising as kids are getting less exercise due to virtual or hybrid schooling, limited youth sports, and stay-at-home orders. With appropriate restrictions in place, kids can get exercise and learn to swim safely in pools this winter, which is just as crucial to their wellbeing as avoiding COVID-19.
I have been a competitive swimmer since the age of seven. I'm currently a junior at Classical High School, and am just beginning the recruiting process for college swimming. Unfortunately, the closure of pools in Rhode Island has put me and other swimmers my age at a clear disadvantage in this process, because we cannot train or race, and therefore we cannot improve. We high school aged swimmers are competing for spots and scholarships with swimmers from other states, where pools are open. It's December 3rd and I swam in Narragansett Bay today. It was very cold. I very, very much hope to be back in a pool after this pause.
I understand that containing COVID-19 has been a huge challenge with lethal consequences. My mom works in healthcare and my grandmother with chronic health conditions lives with me. But pool closures have had and will continue to have a negative impact on many levels for the kids in Rhode Island. Based on what we have seen in the past 6 months, swimming pools are not the reason for the rising numbers, nor are they high-risk spread sites when regulated properly. Please consider a nuanced approach to re-opening low risk recreational sites on December 14th. Many Rhode Islanders need their pools.