City should open pool, with restrictions
Next Monday the Medford City Council will decide if or when the city pool will open for the season.
The pool was originally scheduled to open on June 10. Aldermen delayed that opening over concerns from community members that they did not have adequate procedures in place to ensure the protection of pool employees and patrons. The June 22 date was set for a review to potentially allow for the reopening of the pool in July.
The looming concern for city officials is the chance of social spreading of COVID-19 among pool patrons. COVID-19 is a severe respiratory illness with symptoms that can range from minor to life threatening, especially for high risk groups.
The number of cases in Taylor County has been low compared to elsewhere in the state and the county was one of the last to have a documented case. Over the weekend the list of confirmed cases has climbed to five, with those numbers likely to increase.
Up to this point, the city council has preceded with an abundance of caution in reaction to the COVID-19 risk. This caution is to be commended. Public safety should always be a high priority in making policy decisions.
At the same time, COVID-19 is just one of many public health risks associated with any sort of public gathering. The list of common pathogens that could lead to illness reads like the Grim Reaperâ€™s to-do list.
Public policymakers and individuals make choices balancing potential risk against any activity. Just because knives are sharp and may cut you doesnâ€™t mean you should never venture into the kitchen.
Continuing research in how COVID-19 spreads suggests that karaoke in a crowded tavern or singing as part of a church choir are much more likely means of spreading the virus than swimming in a public pool whose waters are treated specifically to kill pathogens.
Decades ago when the city pool was built, it was done with the primary goal of providing a safe place for children and families to cool off in the summer months. Without the pool, many people will turn to area lakes and rivers. The risks for accidental drownings and other severe injuries increases the longer the pool is kept closed.
The issue with the pool becomes crowd control on the deck and how to maintain social distancing. While there are those who will act boorishly and ignore social distancing guidelines, in the months since the pandemic began many people have picked up the habit of keeping their distance and it has become second nature.
Setting a realistic attendance number that allows room for people to spread out on the deck makes sense. This number needs to take into account the amount of space on the deck compared to the average daily count.
While it is important to not underplay the risk posed by COVID-19, it is also important to maintain perspective and weigh potential risk with the benefits opening the pool will give to the mental and physical health of young people.
The Medford City Council should impose common sense restrictions and safely reopen the city pool.