June 1, 2020
Oakland County Health Department
Dear Ms. Stafford,
I am extremely frustrated and saddened by the decision of all the Metro Detroit Health Departments last week to unilaterally close all public pools. As an aquatic professional who has worked in Metro Detroit for over thirty years, I feel that this decision has consequences that will not only be far reaching but also deadly.
As a coach at Walnut Creek Country Club I see over one hundred children each year on my swim team, approximately one third of which are part of our learn-to-swim program, much like others that run through the Metro Detroit area. By closing public pools you are denying them the opportunity to learn to swim this year and also be in a safe environment surrounded by lifeguards. Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for children and learn to swim programs are an important part in preventing this. In other parts of the country, we have already seen childhood drownings on the rise because of public pools being closed and lack of learn to swim programs. With this decision, you have sacrificed our children for a theoretical situation that may happen at some pools this summer.
As a USA swimming coach for the Novi Sturgeons at The Sports Club of Novi, I see children participating in recreational swimming as a year-round activity. Some of those swimmers are preparing for college swimming, some use it for exercise, and some for social activity. I also coach several Paralympic swimmers whose main form of training is swimming due to their disability. In order to prepare for the return to swimming, USA Swimming has prepared a safe plan for lap swimmers to return to the pool and maintains distance between all swimmers. Your decision does not take any of this into account and sacrifices the physical and emotional well-being of our children as well.
As a Masters coach of one of the largest Masters teams in Michigan, Milford Athletic Club, I have swimmers aged 18 to 85 on my team. I am also the Membership coordinator for Michigan Masters Swimming which has about 1000 members in Michigan, the majority of whom swim in the Metro Detroit area. Swimming is the main form of exercise for the majority of them, and due to physical limitations like arthritis and joint replacements, may be the only form of exercise for some of them. Most of them are healthy, active seniors with few of the co-morbidities associated with higher risk of dying from COVID-19 (diabetes, obesity, and heart disease) but by taking them out of the pool you have put them at higher risk of poor health and decreased immunity.
As a Pool Manager at Walnut Creek Country Club, I hire seasonal high school and college students who work mainly to fund their college education. Now with no employment at their regular pool and many other workplaces not hiring due to financial considerations, your decision has them forced to shoulder the burden of higher loans or possibly not even attend college this fall.
My responsibility as a Pool Manager at Walnut Creek Country Club is to provide for the safety of all my members. I have been actively preparing for opening day for the past several months by working with guidelines provided by whitehouse.gov, cdc.gov and other aquatics organizations all over the country. I have received no guidance from the State of Michigan or Oakland County in preparing for this opening. I have been readying my facility for different capacities, cleaning responsibilities, and different scenarios both to keep members and staff safe for what would have been a very different summer. As a certified pool operator, I follow the Michigan DEQ’s Public Swimming Pool Rules and Oakland County’s guidelines every summer to ensure the safety of every member at the pool.
The decision by Oakland County to close my pool and other public pools is not within your scope of jurisdiction. If my water quality is found to be unsafe or my facilities does not meet guidelines, then it should be closed because I have not provided a safe environment. The scope of Oakland County is not to predict that I cannot provide a safe environment before it occurs. I urge you to reconsider your decision and reopen public pools.
I am forwarding this letter to all my teams and also legislators. I ask that you add your voices and words and please tell about your situation so that we can make a difference and get our pools back this summer.
Pool Manager and Coach, Walnut Creek Country Club
Certified Pool Operator
Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor, Lifeguard, Water Safety Instructor
USA Swim Coach, Novi Sturgeons at The Sports Club of Novi
United States Paralympic National Team Coach
Milford Athletic Club Masters Coach
United States Masters Swimming Membership Coordinator and Level 3 Coach
Sports Medicine and Science Committee Member, USMS
B.S. Kinesiology, University of Michigan