Approximately eleven (11) months ago, Governor Roy Cooper began to issue a series of Executive Orders which allowed for the reopening of indoor and outdoor pool facilities, after mandatory closure due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Community pools could reopen if such reopening could be achieved while still following the requirements of the Executive Orders, which included capacity limits, social distancing mandates, and regular sanitization.
Today, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order 204 (“Order”) that, among other things, further lifted some pool restrictions. Specifically, section 3.13, subsection (a) (1)-(2) of the Order provide, that, for outdoor pools, “the facility must limit Guests in the pool to no more than one hundred percent (100%) of the maximum occupancy as determined by fire code (or, when fire code number is not known, twenty-four (24) Guests per one thousand (1000) square feet in deck areas, wading pools and splash pads, and in the water).” For those communities with indoor pool facilities, the capacity limit is “seventy-five (75%) of maximum occupancy as determined by fire code (or when the fire code number is not known, eighteen (18) Guests per one thousand (1000) square feet in deck areas, wading pools and splash pads, and in the water).” The Core Signage Screening and Sanitation Requirements must be followed, and those are listed in Appendix A to the Order. Those are:
1. Post the Emergency Maximum Occupancy in a noticeable place. (Note, at 100% occupancy, this simply may be posting the fire code maximum, a sign some associations may already have.)
2. Post signage reminding Guests and workers about social distancing (staying at least six (6) feet away from others) and requesting that people who have been symptomatic with fever and/or cough not enter.
3. Immediately isolate and remove sick workers.
4. Perform frequent and routine environmental cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas with an EPA-approved disinfectant for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19).
In sum, outdoor community pools may open to 100% capacity (indoor at 75%), subject to the continued posting of capacity and social distancing signage, the removal of sick workers, and continued cleaning and disinfection of high touch areas.
Notably, for those associations that hold swim events at their pools, a different standard applies whenever they host such event with spectators. Section 3.13(a)(3) provides: “The capacity restrictions for facilities in Subsection 3.2 above, not the capacity restrictions in Subsections 3.13(a)(l )-(2) above, apply to Pools whenever they host a meet or other event with spectators.” This means that the capacity limit for pools during such events is the same as for Bars, Nights Spots and Arenas (per section 3.2). Section 3.2 requires such establishments to become seated facilities; Guest must be in seats except to enter, leave, use amenities, visit the restroom, and obtain food and drink. The capacity restrictions allow for the Emergency Maximum Occupancy to be fifty percent (50%) of the stated fire capacity for each space. For spaces without a stated fire capacity, the limit on Guests is twelve (12) per one thousand (1000) square feet, rounded up.
Associations that hold such events should consider dual signage; one that contains the maximum occupancy the pool, and one that contains the swim event reduced occupancy. Such information could be placed on the same sign if identified properly. Procedurally, swim meets pose unique scenarios regarding distancing and capacity. Staggered races with rotating guests, reservations, limiting or prohibiting guests altogether, and even virtual meets, are all options available to comply with the mandates of the Order. Association Boards and Managers should discuss options with counsel and licensed pool professionals to come up with the best plan.
You can find the full text of the Order at https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/EO204-Further-Easing-Restrictions.pdf.
One final note, please join me and David Harvey of Pool Professionals of the Carolinas next Thursday, April 1, 2021 for a webinar titled “Pools & Facilities Openings 2021-Style”. We will be discussing this Order, pool opening requirements, and related topics that will be helpful as we move into pool season. You can register at cai-nc.org.
Stay safe and welcome to Spring!