On Tuesday, June 9, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 153 which permitted outdoor swimming pools to reopen effective 6:00 a.m. on Monday, June 22, 2020. Additionally, indoor pools were permitted to reopen as of Thursday, July 2, 2020 per Executive Directive 20-022.
As such, apartment communities are allowed to open swimming pools, as well as hot tubs. However, any pool facility that opens must comply with the health and safety standards issued by the NJ Department of Health (DOH).
These standards have been evolving overtime and most recently, on May 7, 2021, DOH made significant changes to the requirements in advance of the start of the 2021 summer pool season. And while the rules maintain capacity restrictions, DOH has indicated that additional changes to capacity limits are expected to take effect on May 19, 2021. Revised guidance will be issued at that time.
The New Jersey COVID-19 Pools and Aquatic Recreation Facility Standards provides operational guidance, and health and safety standards, that must be followed at any pool facility that opens. It is important that all pool operators carefully review the standards to ensure compliance.
It is important to note that the requirement to maintain personnel (called “ambassadors”) to enforce and monitor social distancing has been eliminated. In its place, DOH is requiring a “point of contact” within the facility who should be knowledgeable about COVID-19 response, communication, and awareness activities and liaison with the local health authority in contact tracing efforts. The role may be performed by existing employees, owners, or residents; however, a lifeguard who is on active duty cannot fill that role.
Each facility that plans to reopen will need to carefully review the standards; however, some key requirements are highlighted below:
- Reduce outdoor capacity to 50 percent for the facility and grounds. [Subject to revision on May 19]
- Limit people in indoor areas to 50 percent of the establishment’s indoor capacity – excluding employees.
- Patrons and spectators must wear a face covering while on the pool deck and when social distancing of 6 feet from non-household contacts cannot be maintained.
- Face coverings should NOT be worn while in the water and/or put on children under age two or lifeguards on active duty – face coverings should NOT be allowed in the water due to increased risk of drowning.
- Require staff and patrons who are sick or have recently had a close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home.
- Encourage 6 feet social distancing among staff and patrons, away from non-household contacts, in and out of the water.
- Capacity in hot tubs must be reduced so that individuals maintain 6 feet of distancing, excluding immediate family members, caretakers, household members, or romantic partners.
- Use of reservation, sign in, advanced ticket sales and/or cancellation apps/systems where possible (e.g., advance purchase online or by phone, or no-sign credit card payment) to manage and monitor patron attendance and flow throughout the day and address capacity limits.
- Discourage staff and patrons from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize or disinfect or that are meant to come in contact with the face (e.g. goggles, snorkels, nose clips)
- Patrons are allowed to use their own water play equipment.
- Facilities are not prohibited from renting equipment which does not come into contact with the face such as lifejackets, kickboards, etc. but must document a cleaning procedure which documents the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting.
- Stagger the use of shared spaces such as restrooms, showers locker rooms, breakrooms etc. The numbers of patrons inside the locker rooms should be monitored to ensure social distancing is maintained within the enclosed space.
For a complete copy of the New Jersey COVID-19 Pools and Aquatic Recreation Facility Standards released by the DOH, please click here.