Members of a New Jersey swim team are pushing back after Governor Phil Murphy announced new coronavirus restrictions due to a spike in positive cases within the state. Shutdowns currently include indoor recreational sports, including indoor swimming. The mandate became effective December 5, 2020, and will be enforced through January 2, 2021.
High school students Andy Moss and Jerry Zheng, who compete at the Summerset Hills YMCA, started a petition to keep indoor pools open. They believe swimming competitions are necessary to continue swimming on a college level; they have already been competing in a safe manner.
They started the petition last summer, and it has since been re-started with the Governor’s latest order. It currently has over 18,000 signatures.
“Back over the summer, when we opened up our petition, we were backed by the science from the CDC that said chlorine kills corona, and based off that we were able to open up the pools and follow the guidelines. All season, up to this point, I know that our Y staff, our coaches and fellow swimmers have done a terrific job keeping us healthy and safe,” Moss said in an interview with Fox News Channel.
The Governor’s announcement comes a week after a small study was published by the New Jersey Swim Safety Alliance, who claimed to have found no reported instances of Covid-19 spread at indoor pool facilities in the state. The allvolunteer organization tracked 60 facilities since the pools re-opened on July 2 by surveying owners and/or managers of indoor pools in New Jersey.
The results are as follows:
• A total of 327,316 people entered the facilities since they re-opened.
• Respondents reported that zero people became infected in their facilities.
The study offers a number of theories to explain the zero-incidence rate.
The swim facilities reported adhering to stricter protocols than those required by the Governor’s order of the New Jersey Department of Health. Those include having swim instructors and coaches wear face masks and shields while inside, strictly limiting occupancy and managing appointed swim times. Capacity has been limited to 25% and social distancing was enforced. Locker rooms were closed or monitored to ensure social distancing.
Authors of the study indicated that conducting indoor swimming in an environment of warm humid air and chlorinated water may play a role for a couple of reasons.
They speculate that if Covid-19 is carried in droplets, those might be carried up away from swimmers in the hot air. Also, if Covid-19 droplets fall into the water, the chlorine may neutralize or destroy them. Furthermore, when a swimmer vigorously inhales, it is nearly always with their face in the water.
According to competitive swimmer and petition co-starter, Jerry Zheng, the Summerset Hills YMCA has gone above and beyond to ensure swimmer safety during practices and meets. Protocols include filling out a questionnaire, wearing a mask while not in the water and getting temperatures checked.
“Then, during practices, we are socially distanced; we put our bags and our equipment in a designated area six feet apart from other people, and during meets we all wear masks until we race. We have our masks on until we get to the blocks and then we put it in a little plastic bag and put it in a bin behind the blocks and then we dive in and swim our event. After we get out of the pool, we put our masks back on and we do our normal warm down procedures,” Zheng said.
Moss has the following message for Governor Murphy: “As you know and as we all know, the top priority, obviously, is safety. Everyone knows how important it is to follow the science and we have the science. The CDC knows that chlorine kills the virus. USA swimming put out very strict guidelines that our pool at the Y and other pools in New Jersey, and I’m sure, across the country are following extremely strictly. If we follow the science, we can and should get back to training in a safe way.”