Ottawa

City pools will begin opening Monday — here's how it will work

Swimmers seeking refuge from the heat will soon be able to take a dip in city pools for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place — but this summer, things will be a little different.

Swimmers will have to reserve time for public and wading pools

The wading pool outside the St. Laurent Complex will open on Monday, July 6, as part of the first stage of the City of Ottawa's phased approach to reopening public pools. (Jean Delisle/CBC News)

Swimmers seeking refuge from the heat will soon be able to take a dip in city pools for the first time since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place — but this summer, things will be a little different.

Starting Monday, wading pools and public swimming pools will begin opening with measures in place to allow physical distancing between swimmers.

The first batch of pools will open July 6, with the rest following one week later, as part of a phased approach to getting people back in the water. 

"Our life's pleasure is to see people in the pool," said City of Ottawa recreation supervisor Chris Wagg. "It's really important for people ... to get out to the pools and swim and have fun in the summer."

WATCH: Ottawa pools to begin staged reopening

Chris Wagg, recreation supervisor with the City of Ottawa, says pools around the city will begin opening July 6 with measures in place to allow for physical distancing between swimmers. 1:02

Wagg said the city will be limiting the number of people who can swim at one time based on the size of the pool. All swimmers are expected to stay six feet, or just under two metres, away from others both in and out of the pools. 

Visitors will have to book swim times in advance. At public pools, people will be able to schedule one-hour sessions for public and lane swimming online.

At wading pools, they'll have to secure a spot in person.

"We're anticipating some lineups," said Wagg. "[But] we've been doing socially distancing activities so I think people are used to this."

Chris Wagg, recreation supervisor at the City of Ottawa, said she's expecting there to be lineups at some pools because of the limited spaces available. (Jean Delisle/CBC News)

Staff will ask pool users screening questions about whether they've had any flu-like symptoms or if they've travelled recently. 

Physical distancing will also change how lifeguards and wading pool staff handle injuries and rescues, Wagg said.

"We're used to [being] hands-on and going right to the kids that have fallen and scraped their knee," said Wagg. "Now, we're going to be engaging the parents to help us do the first aid, because we have to socially distance. So we'll only be doing contact rescues if we must."

Risk of spread low 

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said in a statement there's little scientific evidence showing that the virus can spread through properly treated water.

But OPH did warn that common areas and surfaces could be places where transmission occurs.

"Individuals should consider that the areas around pools and lakes, such as change rooms, beaches and docks can be transmission points for the virus because of crowding and lack of use of masks," their statement said. "Concern about close contact should also apply when in the water and you should practice physical distancing while in the water since people may be breathing heavily, sputtering or shouting."

The City of Ottawa said there will be enhanced cleaning procedures in place for common areas, change rooms and washroom facilities. Equipment that is not regularly in contact with chlorinated water will be disinfected every four hours at a minimum.

For information about pool scheduling and the new rules, visit the city's website.

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