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The pool season is in question

We’re into the middle of the weekend that traditionally has marked the unofficial start of the summer season.

But this is a time unlike any other we have seen, and many of the experiences we have come to anticipate this time of year are missing, joining the list of things that have fallen victim to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, we learned this week that some municipal swimming pools in communities throughout the Tri-State Area will not be opening this year.

In Steubenville, for instance, members of City Council voted Tuesday night to keep the pool at Belleview Park closed this season. It was a decision that came after Recreation Director Lori Fetherolf explained that it would be nearly impossible to enforce the guidelines Gov. Mike DeWine has issued for pools.

Those include maintaining a 6-foot social distancing radius in and out of the pool, a requirement that would effectively limit the capacity to about 60 people. That was just one of many concerns. Employees at the pool would have been required to wear gloves and masks, and partitions to separate workers from the public at concession stands and at the front desk would have been needed. Chairs and handrails would have to have been cleaned at least every two hours or every time a person left.

Staff members would have been placed in difficult positions — they would have had to possibly turn people away from the facility after it had reached its 60-person limit and would have been responsible for policing social distancing guidelines.

The kicker came when Fetherolf said the city’s insurance carrier had indicated that if someone at the pool would have contracted the coronavirus, the city would not be covered.

It’s a tough decision that is being faced in communities around the region. Officials in Mingo Junction, for instance, announced Thursday that the village’s pool would stay closed this year. Follansbee and Toronto, meanwhile, have delayed any final decisions.

And on Thursday, members of the Weirton Board of Parks and Recreation said they will have to wait to see W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice’s pool guidelines until they can make a final decision about the fate of Starvaggi Memorial Pool for this year.

Decisions to keep the pools closed are difficult to make. Pools, after all, always have been somewhere to relax a little and enjoy time with friends, as well as a place to escape the sweltering heat of summer.

In the end, though, we have to agree with Steubenville City Manager Jim Mavromatis, who said the safety of citizens and employees must come first, adding that with all of the issues surrounding COVID-19, opening the pool is “just not worth the roll of the dice.”

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