Orange County officials are pushing to re-open community pools, and potentially youth sports like soccer, as two supervisors question why they’re still shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.
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Both public and private community pools have been closed for weeks under health directives seeking to slow the spread of the virus. That’s now generating pushback from Orange County officials, who plan on sending a letter asking for state approval to re-open them.
Other large counties, including Los Angeles and Riverside, recently allowed the re-opening of pools at apartment complexes or owned by homeowners’ associations, as long as they follow health guidelines like requiring physical distancing and not allowing large groups.
It appeared Orange County hadn’t requested such a re-opening as of Tuesday afternoon. But that could be about to change.
The push in OC was led Tuesday by supervisors Don Wagner and Michelle Steel, who in recent weeks have called for many closure orders to be lifted.
“[I would ask that] we proactively get in front of the governor and get in front of the state, and push to get the pools open. Because to me, this is just silly that we aren’t,” Wagner said at Tuesday’s meeting of the county Board of Supervisors.
“Yeah it is,” replied Supervisor Michelle Steel. “Because how are you going to transmit the, you know, virus through water, now?”
“In chlorinated water,” Wagner said.
“Yeah. Exactly,” said Steel.
Wagner also called for the county to try to get youth sports back up and running as soon as possible.
“And the fields, the sports. The kids need to be out playing soccer and [baseball]. Let’s try to get that going as well. It is past time to do that I think,” Wagner said.
The other three supervisors didn’t weigh in, other than Supervisor Doug Chaffee asking if private community pools are also shut down under the state’s orders.
The current shut-down applies to all pools that require a health permit from the county, which includes most pools owned by homeowners’ associations, said Dr. Clayton Chau, director of the county Health Care Agency.
He and county CEO Frank Kim said they would be sending a letter to the state seeking permission to let pools re-open.
“Please submit that right away,” Steel said. “We will,” said Chau.
Public pools at community centers are not allowed to re-open under the Stage 2 that Orange County and most counties in California are in, according to the state. But privately-owned pools owned by apartment complexes and homeowners associations have been allowed to re-open in counties like LA and Riverside, with limitations.
Wagner and Steel’s push came just after pleas by Kenny Hrabik, who said his business has been decimated at the country club he owns, which has a pool, in the gated Coto de Caza community.
“I’ve now been closed for 10 weeks, and we are bleeding. So whatever you can do to try to get our businesses open, we need help,” said Hrabik, who owns the Coto Valley Country Club.
“We’ve lost proms, we’ve lost weddings, we’ve lost our gym, we’ve lost our membership for our pool. We’ve lost quite a bit. We can’t even do swim lessons [for] children. And so what I’m begging you is to do whatever you can to get our pools open,” he added.
“We’re ready to open our pools.”
He questioned why pools in Los Angeles County and other areas have been allowed to re-open, while those in Orange County have not.
Los Angeles County’s health officer issued an order last week allowing pools in private communities, but not public pools, to re-open with limitations.
In Orange County, Tuesday’s discussion suggested county officials had not requested permission to re-open pools but would be sending a letter soon making the request.
Coronavirus continues to spread in Orange County, health officials said Tuesday.
As of Monday, there were 292 people hospitalized with coronavirus in Orange County, including 121 people in intensive care, according to mandatory data reported by hospitals to the state.
County officials said 213 additional infections were confirmed Monday, 10 of which were from nursing homes.
Steel asked where the other 203 infections came from.
“That would be the general community,” Chau replied. “It means that people are still getting infected.”
Nick Gerda covers county government for Voice of OC. You can contact him at email@example.com.