Swim facility pleads with RI Governor
A Rhode Island owner of an indoor aquatics center was imploring the state to allow her facility to re-open during the state’s “pause” from November 30 through December 20, 2020.
Susan Pascale-Frechette, owner of Pods Swimming in East Providence, cites the Centers for Disease Control directives for pools, as well as her facility’s state-of-the-art air filtration system, as reasons for her facility to remain open.
“All you’re doing is bringing a person into a chlorinated pool where the virus doesn’t live. And if you have an air handler unit that brings 100% outside in there’s no concern,” Pascale-Frechette said.
Pods Swimming facility is a standalone 11,900-square-foot building featuring a six-lane, 25-yard pool and a 20-foot-by-40-foot teaching pool. With Covid restrictions in place, spectators are not allowed. Parents may watch their children in the parking lot via video feed.
Responding to what the state called the “huffing and puffing” of swimmers, Pascale-Frechette said they exhale into the water. But as an added precaution, in May she installed plexiglass dividers between lanes, at each end of the pool, the only place where swimmers might pause and interact.
“I’d like someone to come here to tell me what we could do differently so we could open. Because there isn’t anything more we could do,” said Pascale-Frechette, who has enlisted the help of two state representatives from East Providence to lobby the administration for her.
Rhode Island’s Health Director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, who tested positive for Covid on December 12, said the virus spreads more when people are indoors and not able to wear a mask.
“Where pools are, the smell of chlorine is even stronger when you’re indoors. It’s a sign of what’s happening with the air. It’s harder to ventilate adequately. You’re breathing harder, you are swimming there recreationally or for other forms of exercise,” Alexander-Scott said.
However, Pascale-Frechette countered that there is no chlorine smell at Pods, because the high-tech filtration system does not recycle indoor air.
She also cited a recent New Jersey study that looked at the potential spread of Covid-19 within indoor pool facilities throughout the state. The study found no cases of infections at the 60 facilities, all while more than 325,000 people passed through.
Pascale-Frechette’s arguments were to no avail. Pods was approved to be used during the “pause” for medical and therapeutic uses, but not for the larger swimming population.
Like most areas of the country, new cases mounted steeply in Rhode Island from November and December and Governor Gina Raimondo ordered a three-week “pause” for certain businesses to decrease mobility and lesson chances of transmission of the coronavirus disease. Businesses ordered closed included indoor dining, venues of assembly, gyms and sports facilities and indoor recreation.
Pods Swimming Aquatics Center, East Providence, Rhode Island