City of Omaha prepares to reopen pools July 1

Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 10:04 PM CDT
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This time last week, the City of Omaha announced it would open five of its pools during the pandemic, giving families a place to cool off this summer.

The city normally gets six months to prepare for the season.

In 2020, they get about three weeks.

“Having such a short window of having to get everybody on board is definitely a collaborative effort,” said Tracy Stratman, recreation programmer.

The City’s Parks and Human Resources Departments, as well as newly hired lifeguards and managers were on hand at the Elkhorn Community Center Monday for aquatic staff service training.

“It’s to make sure that they know not only the City of Omaha’s policies and procedures but their certification process,” Stratman said.

Some of the city’s new procedures include $2 admission fees per person and social distancing.

Pools will only run at 75 percent capacity -- excluding staff members, who will count every individual at the facility and space households apart.

The city is also evaluating how to advise lifeguards for situations that require CPR.

As for concerns about COVID-19 spreading through the water, Stratman points to the experts.

“According to the CDC and National Recreation and Parks Association, you can’t get COVID-19 through chemically treated water, and that’s what we use in the pools,” she said.

Most of these lifeguards are the same high school students whose lives went virtual just months ago.

“For six weeks, I was probably sleeping in until about noon and not doing much with my days. Now I have a reason to wake up in the morning and something to keep me busy,” said Jared Givens, a lifeguard at Elmwood’s pool.

“Especially coming from school which was online, I felt like I was stuck at home the entire day. So this is really nice to give back to the community for them to have something to go to,” said Christa Yong, a lifeguard at Zorinsky’s pool.

The city acted quickly to get 100 lifeguards and supervisors prepared.

Elmwood, Hitchcock, Miller, Roanoke, and Zorinsky pools open July 1.

Facilities will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., then close for 30 minutes to treat the pools, then reopen at 4:30 p.m. and close at 8 p.m. each day.

Admission fees go towards a local food bank.