ECTOR COUNTY, Texas — Swimming around in a body of water is the essence of summer.

But this summer's swim will be looking different.

In Ector County, excursions to the pool will include a lot more health components with COVID-19 swimming about.

Some of which will include sanitizing hands each time you exit the pool before touching another object and spacing pool deck layouts to allow social distancing of 6 feet.

"We also encourage all of the facilities to ensure that their staff and their management is aware of all the precautions that need to be taken. They need to look at the CDC guidelines and there's a lot more guidelines on there than what is posted here," Brandy Garcia, Ector County Health Department Director, said. 

But some of these guidelines were cut down by the Ector County Health Department to reflect this community's specific needs.

For example, one CDC guideline requires a PA system, which is an electronic system of a microphone and loud speakers. This is to notify swimmers about COVID-19 and safety precautions.

Ector County's Health Director didn't see this as feasible for every entity, so they made it a recommendation instead.

"We wanted to open the pools to allow people to get back to as normal as possible. We know that during the summertime that's one of the things that people really look forward to is swimming and enjoying that time together," Garcia said. 

Liability falls on each hotel or apartment, and it'll be up to them to decide when they want to open.

The new changes might make you feel like a fish out of water, but they're in place so that fun in the sun can be just a splash away.

"With everything opening back up we want to make sure that people understand that just because things are opening up it does not mean that the virus is out of our community. It is still here and it is still a threat to people," Garcia said. 

It's all in an effort to keep each other safe, while still splashing fun.

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Here are extra precautions spelled out by the Ector County Health Department:

Promoting Behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19

  • Hand Hygiene, Respiratory Etiquette and Adequate Supplies
    • Encouraging all staff, patrons, and swimmers to wash their hands often and cover their coughs and sneezes.
    • The facility must provide or require the visitor to have hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol with them while in the pool area. Once the individual exits the water they are required to sanitize their hands before touching any objects.
  • Modified Layout
    • Changing deck layouts to ensure that in the standing and seating areas, individuals can remain at least 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with (provide signage stating the distance requirement).
  • Signs and Messages posted in Pool area
    • Educating staff, patrons, and swimmers about when to stay home (for example, if they have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19, or were exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 14 days).
    • Signage on how to stop the spread of COVID-19, properly hand washing, promotes everyday protective measures, and proper use of cloth face coverings. Posted in highly visible locations (example of signage can be found on the CDC website).

Maintaining Health Environments

  • Cleaning and Disinfection
    • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects each time they are used. For example:
      • Handrails, slides, and structures for climbing or playing
      • Lounge chairs, tabletops, pool noodles, and kickboards
      • Door handles and surfaces of restrooms, hand washing states, and showers
  • Water Systems
    • Drinking fountains must not be in use for the 2020 season
  • Shared Objects
    • Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect (goggles, nose clips, snorkels, pool noodles, kick boards etc.).
  • Gatherings
    • Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings both in and out of the water if social distancing of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live together cannot be maintained.
      • Exceptions would be anyone rescuing a distressed swimmer, providing first aid, or preforming cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with or without an automated external defibrillator, or the process of evacuating an aquatic venue or entire facility due to an emergency.

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