Moberly Parks and Recreation Aquatic Center Closed in 2020
The Moberly Parks and Recreation Board met Thursday April 30th to discuss the upcoming aquatic season. Due to numerous unique characteristics and requirements of an aquatic facility in this time with COVID-19, guidance of City staff and the aquatic industry, the Board has joined a growing number of communities closing their facilities for 2020. This was a difficult decision as we all want things to return to normal, but many considerations about the unique requirements of an aquatics setting in this climate made it abundantly clear that the best and quickest way to return to normal was to forego operating the Aquatic Center in 2020.
While appearances are that the first wave is easing, this can be misleading. We continue to learn about this virus and without a vaccine to help prevent the spread, experts predict the second wave could be even more dangerous. Everyday new cases are identified, we need to be even more vigilant in our efforts to prevent the spread as businesses are set to reopen in a few days. This climate makes plausible cases over the summer. Cases over the summer would not only have an immediate impact on the operation and public health, but could impact decisions about schools opening in the fall.
Based on aquatic industry standards, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) would have been required that cannot be obtained for the foreseeable future - most or all of the aquatics season - for employees and guests. It would have also meant competing with critical front line healthcare entities and emergency personnel at a time they are struggling to find supplies for hundreds of units of various PPE for a seasonal recreational operation while being unable to obtain all of the PPE necessary to adequately protect the staff and guests in the unique aquatics environment - all of which would have resulted in such operations holding zero moral ground.
If opened, there would have been significant restrictions in hours including closures throughout the day to sanitize, likely elimination of pool parties and swim lessons, closure of many of the popular attractions, severe restrictions on the number allowed to attend, and more. These measures would have meant guests would have been inconvenienced and services would have been limited to the point where there was no merit in opening.
Because lifeguards provide a lifesaving role, their focus must only be on the water not regulating attendance, taking mandatory temperature readings of everyone entering the facility, monitoring social distancing throughout the facility including in the concession area, and numerous other protocols.
Simply, distractions can cost lives. This would have required an additional set of staff be present to fulfill these critical duties according to aquatic industry standards. The cost, in addition to the significantly
increased costs of PPE, sanitizing chemicals and equipment, and other protocols would have meant costs would skyrocket.
The overall situation would have created an impossible situation where the protocols of the industry could not be met, particularly in regard to PPE, while also running at a vastly expanded deficit given the significantly reduced revenue due to the above items and significantly increased expenses due to the above items. This would come amidst the expectation of Department revenues dropping overall from thousands of dollars of lost rentals already to significant potential reductions in sales and use tax which makes up approximately 70% of the Department's revenue.
In short, no matter which perspective the issue was approached in recent days from - whether school and overall community impact, public health and safety, facility staff health and safety, as well as a financial impact, every perspective pointed to the uniqueness of an aquatics environment being such that closure for the 2020 season was a necessary, inevitable, and unavoidable action.
We have to work together as a community to keep our citizens safe and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are all saddened to have to make this decision, but together we can all do our part, to save one life, to help the hospitals from being overwhelmed, ensure PPE is used strategically, protect employees and the public, and make people feel safe to go out. Remember we can all help prevent the spread. Practice physical distancing, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, wash your hands often, cover your cough, and wear a cloth mask in public. Together we can make a difference.
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