Tuesday, September 28, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 30

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 5th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 45

Santa Maria pool closed until Jan. 14, no additional cases reported

By Malea Martin

The Paul Nelson Aquatic Center will be closed until at least Jan. 14 to those who use its facilities, which averages around 100 people daily.

After some lifeguarding staff members tested positive for COVID-19 and others were exposed, the Santa Maria Recreation and Parks Department decided to close the Paul Nelson Aquatic Center for at least two weeks.

According to Santa Maria Recreation Services Manager Dennis Smitherman, 20 percent of the pool’s lifeguard staff either tested positive for coronavirus or were exposed to someone who did. Those staff members are now in the middle of a 14-day quarantine, with no additional cases identified as of Jan. 4.

Smitherman said none of the exposures are believed to have occurred in the workplace. 

“[The staff members] were exposed through the personal choices that they’re making and not here at the Paul Nelson Aquatic Center,” Smitherman said. “We have a really strict set of standards as far as COVID goes. If there’s any sign or symptoms of illness, you are not allowed to come to work.”

City Public Information Officer Mark van de Kamp said Recreation and Parks will “work in consultation with the city manager’s office and see where things stand” come Jan. 14. 

“If need be, then further closure is possible, or we may reopen,” he said.

The pool has around 30 staffed lifeguards. With 20 percent of them in quarantine and unable to work, staffing challenges contributed to the pool’s closure.

“We’re really watching those staff and making sure that they’re staying healthy. We don’t want them to bring it into work and infect our patrons or each other,” Smitherman said. “We do have a limited number of staff that can work all the shifts.”

It’s especially important that lifeguards are illness-free, given the nature of their job, Smitherman added.

“Thankfully it’s very rare, but in the case that a lifeguard does need to perform their duties, you can’t do that with social distancing. Whether it be using a back board to help [a patron] out of a pool, mouth to mouth, even just a basic rescue—that requires close contact,” Smitherman said. “It’s just safer that the lifeguards take this break and make sure everyone is healthy and well before we can reopen.”

Smitherman said the Recreation and Parks Department will continue to offer other avenues for the community to stay active and engaged at a distance.

“This year for 2021, we’re going to continue providing our virtual content, everything from exercise to music classes and programs,” Smitherman said. “We’re working with partners to provide the programs that we don’t have the expertise for in-house. We’ll be starting an online coding program here in the next couple weeks. And then we’re still going to focus on providing activities that allow for small groups, that allow for social distancing—making sure that we’re following all the CDC guidelines.”

Van de Kamp said Recreation and Parks isn’t the only city department that had to make some adaptations in the New Year.

“In the bigger picture, we are looking at revising all of the departments’ safety plans within the city,” van de Kamp said. “That’s because of additional rules from the state of California that everyone has to follow, so we’re going to be going back and looking at all of our safety plans. Those are done for the safety of the public and the employees.”

Assembly Bill 685, which took effect on Jan. 1, requires additional employer notifications for worksite exposure and outbreaks, and also “enhances CalOSHA’s [California Division of Occupational Safety and Health] enforcement of infection prevention requirements,” van de Kamp said.

“So we’re going to take another look and see where we’re at with preventative measures, training, and supplies,” he said. m

Weekly Poll
What are the most important conversations to be having right now when it comes to policing?

We need to address how racial bias influences policing.
We should focus on funding the police so they can do their job.
Mental health is where our dollars need to go, both in and out of the police department.
As one Sept. 20 community input meeting attendee said, 'Let’s get back to the Old West and treat people like they should be treated.' (Interpret how you will.)

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