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Moore Aquatic Center reopens, one stroke at a time

The beginning of summer is usually a busy time for local swimming pools, but in the midst of COVID-19, local pools are taking a cautious approach to welcoming guests back into the water.

At Moore Aquatic and Fitness Center in Washington, the indoor facility is open year round to swimmers ranging from kids first learning to float to senior citizens who rely on the pool to help stave off the effects of arthritis and other degenerative diseases. Since the pool closed its doors in mid-March, facility director Stanhope Deatherage says he has missed those members and has been especially concerned for the seniors who rely on the pool for therapy.

In the past few weeks, however, the staff at the aquatic center has been hard at work, making preparations to welcome members back to a safe environment.

“We participated in a lot of training with other aquatic centers in the state to try and get a general consensus on how we were all going to handle this reopening phase,” Deatherage said. “Of course, first and foremost, we took into consideration the law and what we have to legally do to reopen and keep everyone safe. Then, there are other guidelines we felt were very important to take into consideration.”

Implementing guidelines from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, as well as policies of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team, the staff at the center has tailored those policies to fit their pool.

In the lobby area and locker rooms, markers on the floor direct guests to remain six feet apart from one another. High-touch items such as kickboards are disinfected regularly, and the facility is closed periodically throughout the day for deep cleaning. Only one person is allowed in each swim lane at the time, and members must call ahead to make reservations for a time to swim.

“Some of the things we’ve had to do are, of course, outside of normal operation parameters, but everyone so far seems to be on board with it, because everyone’s just so ready to get back to the pool,” Deatherage said.

Washington Parks and Recreation Director Kristi Roberson says the city is taking a gradual approach to getting recreation up and running in Washington. Next steps in coming weeks include trying to get athletes back on public ball fields and eventually reopening playgrounds when state restrictions allow. She added that Grace Martin Harwell Senior Center, which also falls under Washington Parks and Recreation, may also be slow to reopen as the population there is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

“Everything as far as trying to reopen, we’re doing it slowly so we can do it safely,” Roberson said. “We’re trying and ready to get people back to some kind of normalcy, and to having fun. … The biggest thing is we miss everybody. I don’t want people to think we’re closed just because we can. We miss our customers, we miss the general public, we miss seeing families and kids and we miss our seniors.”

For the latest updates on city facilities reopening, visit www.washingtonnc.gov, the City of Washington Facebook page @CityOfWashingtonNC or the Parks and Recreation Facebook page @WashingtonParksAndRecreationDepartment.