Eight city pools opened for the first time on Friday after a delayed opening due to COVID-19 restrictions and careful determination by a cautious administration that doesn’t want to see a reversal of the virus spread.
About 15 people lined up started at 10 a.m. outside of the pool on Kosciuszko Street in Bedford Stuyvesant where they awaited an 11 a.m. opening. Instead, the opening was delayed by an hour after a slow-moving storm moved through with claps of thunder.
The city was taking no chances and required that everyone wear a mask when not in the pool. Pool water has been determined to not spread the virus because of the high chlorine content, medical professionals have said. In addition, health professionals have said there is much lower rates of infection outdoors and in sunlight, the UV rays kill coronavirus. The city however will limit the number of people in the pool to maintain social distancing.
“We just needed a day to relax, with everything going on with the pandemic, its a great way to take it easy,” said Rachel Murray who was first on line with her family, sitting in the rain.
“It’s cool to be here,” said Rachel’s son Sammy, who didn’t seem to mind getting rained on. “We just want to get in here and have fun – we’re getting wet anyway.”
Jose Perez, 68, stood against the wall and smoked a cigarette waiting for his turn to enter. He said he doesn’t mind the rain – ‘it’s all water.”
“The pool is close by and you get together with your friends and your family so I always come here,” Perez said.
Every 20 minutes, Parks officials would come out and stretch the opening as thunder could be heard in the distance. During the wait, the Gordon family showed with multi-color towels in hand – seven children, brothers and sisters and cousins.
“I been looking forward to this for a long time,” said Leavon Gordon as he sat with his family under a concrete overhang in the rain. “I’ve been waiting for this whole quarantine to come to an end, and I definitely have been waiting to go to the pool. I thought I missed it yesterday, but then I found out it was today – I was happy – I felt a lot of emotions. When I go into the pool, I’m taking no chances, I will stay in there and wear my mask when I’m not in.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Thursday that seven more pools throughout the city will reopen next Friday, July 31 to cool down the sweltering city in the throes of a heat wave.
In addition to masks, number of people in locker rooms will be limited and visitors will be required to maintain social distance when out of the water, Mayor de Blasio told reporters. Areas on line were marked to remind visitors how to social distance and inside the locker rooms.
“We’re gonna be careful about not overcrowding, you in the pool is a good situation, doctors will attest that fluorine is our friend in fighting the coronavirus but we still need be careful about being in too close of contact,” the mayor said on Thursday.
The city is expecting larger numbers of people at the pools on Saturday – temperatures are supposed to hit the mid 90’s with no rain predicted.
Pool re-openings come as the city announced four new testing locations at Medrite Urgent Care facilities, bumping the total testing capacity to 50,000 New Yorkers a day. The citywide median coronavirus turnaround rate is now less than half of what it was last week, officials said.
The announcements come as new infection rates remain well below the city’s threshold of 200 a day. As of Tuesday, City Hall reported 69 people were admitted a public hospital with possible COVID-19 symptoms, 297 people were in a public hospital intensive care unit due to COVID-19 complications and the number of New York City residents testing positive for the virus remains at 2%.
The state is now one of the lowest rates of infection, while four southern states, Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, are now the highest rates and rising, forcing President Donald Trump himself to push people to wear masks after months of resisting. He also cancelled the Republican convention that was supposed to be moved to Florida as that state has the highest rates of infections in the nation.