Summer is officially back: how to local navigate pools and playgrounds

(AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

GREENSBORO/RALEIGH — Residents across North Carolina can rest assured that when it comes to poolside gatherings, kids’ summer camps, and even playdates with friends, this summer is going to look a lot better than last. When Gov. Roy Cooper announced in mid-May that he was lifting all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, social distancing requirements and most mandatory mask requirements, it set the stage for many of the state’s most cherished summer recreational activities, like swimming and hanging out at area pools, to rapidly return to normal.

Pool operators in some of NC’s smaller cities and towns say some restrictions from last summer have carried over, so it is always a good idea to check their website before planning your trip in case there are required sign ups, etc. However most private area country clubs say they have completely removed capacity limits, social distancing rules and mask mandates for this year.

Many private clubs said it is against their by-laws to discuss operations, but a few were able to offer some insight. Some local managers say members are once again allowed to bring guests, no longer have to sign up ahead of time, and food service is up and running at all their snack bars. They also say that many of last summer’s vigilant protocols, like capping attendance at a very low number of members, allowing each member to only reserve 3 hour blocks of time on any given day, and breaking early to wipe down and disinfect common areas were incredibly tedious, cumbersome, and frankly just a giant headache for staff and members alike. “Really this year is business as usual for us. It is just like things were in the summer of 2019 to be honest,” said one Raleigh-area pool manager who wished to remain anonymous.

Terra Waldron, General Manager and COO of the Greensboro Country Club shed some light on how her club is handling things this summer in a recent interview with NSJ:

​1. Now that COVID restrictions have been, for the most part, lifted – what will this summer look like for your club’s facilities? Is it anything like last summer with regard to having to sign up and check in or are things “back to normal?”

Our tee times went back to normal to 10 minutes instead of 20 minutes separating members. No guests were allowed at the Club. Our reservation system now allows more members in dining per the executive order. The pool is open following the guidelines for maximum capacity.

​2. What measures did your club take last summer to keep things safe during COVID?

We followed the executive orders to the letter of the law in all areas of the Club with members and staff. Masks wearing, capacity to 25% to 50 % until now; we did proper distancing everywhere including the golf course, one rider per cart. Lots of sanitation. Barriers (like sneeze guards) to the receptionists in Clubhouse and Fitness areas.

​3. Has anything carried over and will be the new normal (like cleaning procedures, spaced out chairs?)

We always had strict cleaning procedures, but increased to every half hour with housekeeping signing off after all touch points were cleaned.

4. Have you had a hard time finding lifeguards or other employees for this summer?

We have enough lifeguards, but other departments are still short staffed. Candidates call and/or ghost you, or flat out say they are receiving benefits from the government and will wait until the money runs out.

​5. What else can you tell me about your club and the arrangements this summer?

We added a new membership called The Farm, it has been very successful. They like the all amenities  (indoor tennis and outdoor tennis, golf course,  golf training center, pool, and food and beverage), value for all services offered, feel safe and secure.

Another hopeful sign for an “almost normal” summer season is that the Centers for Disease control recently loosened its mask guidance for most outdoor activities at summer camps saying unvaccinated children at camps could go without masks while playing outside. “For camps where everyone is fully vaccinated prior to the start of camp, it is safe to return to full capacity, without masking and without physical distancing. In camps where not everyone is fully vaccinated, mask recommendations for all have been relaxed for most outdoor activities, unless the setting is crowded and involves sustained close contact,” the agency stated.

While many adults are now vaccinated and venturing out, a vaccine for children younger than 12 isn’t expected to arrive until this fall. For many families, that makes navigating social situations even more confusing than it was early in the pandemic. The CDC recommends that unvaccinated people, including children older than 2 years old, wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor settings but children are far less likely than adults to be hospitalized or die from COVID. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that as of May, children have accounted for roughly 2% of COVID hospitalizations in the U.S. and less than 1% of deaths.

During a recent playground gathering at one of Raleigh’s public parks, a group of moms discussed the fact that even with pools and summer camps reopening, they remain aware that some parents may still not be comfortable returning to normal playdates. “One thing that has not changed since last summer is that it is still a challenge to balance the safety concerns of other moms and dads who may be reluctant to let their kids resume socializing with my child, without impacting my own child’s friendships,” one mother said.