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Reopening Public Water Recreation Facilities (PWRF)

The goal of the protocols outlined in this document is to minimize the risk of virus transmission in and around PWRFs.

  • May 27, 2020


The goal of the protocols outlined in this document is to minimize the risk of virus transmission in and around PWRFs. The St. Louis County Public Water Recreation Facilities Rules and Regulations require pools to be maintained by a properly trained and certified operator responsible for the sanitation, safety, and proper maintenance of the pool, spa, or water recreation attraction, in addition to all physical and mechanical equipment and records. PWRFs include a wide array of facilities, from small neighborhood and hotel pools to large water park venues; each with their own unique physical characteristics, design and staffing. For this reason, Saint Louis County Department of Public Health (DPH) is requiring each PWRF operator to consider their specific operation and work with their certified pool operator to develop a written plan which will accomplish the following:

  • Promote and practice social distancing – Reduce bather load to 25% of approved bather load and maintain 6 feet between each person using and attending to the PWRF.
  • Monitor staff/attendant and guest health – Check the status of health and screen for COVID-19 upon arrival and monitor for symptoms throughout attendance.
  • Mandate the use of protective equipment – Attendants and patrons must wear fabric face coverings when not in the water or eating at dining tables.
  • Clean/sanitize/disinfect – Provide adequate hand-washing facilities, wipe down frequently touched surfaces with EPA-registered disinfectants, and properly maintain the chemical balance of water to ensure continuous disinfection.

All PWRFs shall have a certified pool operator, manager, or designee(s) within the PWRF enclosure in non-swimwear to complete actions required by, and ensure adherence to, the operational plan when bathers are present. Unattended PWRFs are not permitted to operate. Lifeguards are present for the purpose of monitoring swimmer safety and performing lifesaving measures where necessary, and are not permitted to carry out functions of the certified pool operator, manager, or designee.

Due to the inability to safely separate household groups in these environments, spray grounds, splash pads and water playgrounds should remain closed. Single user slides and water rides accommodating small groups that can be limited to single user or household per ride, can operate with social distancing line markers and disinfecting of high touch surfaces between each user or individual household group.

Steps should be taken to ensure all facility water systems such as drinking fountains, decorative fountains, and hot tubs (when permitted to open) are safe to use after prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.

The following should be included in each written operational plan:

Social Distancing

  • Limit bather load to 25% or less of the approved bather load for the facility (including spectators or others not swimming).
  • Limit the number of staff/attendants in shared spaces, including break rooms and offices, to maintain at least 6 feet of separation between people.
  • Provide a physical barrier, such as sneeze guards and partitions at cash registers and counters where physical distancing is not possible.
  • Use contactless check-in by having patrons swipe their own cards in card readers or submit advanced payment online.
  • Notify patrons upon entering of expectations for navigating in and around the PWRF to maintain social distancing, and emphasize the necessity of obeying ground markings and signage.
  • Provide additional signage throughout facilities as needed for understanding of ground markings and requirements at concessions, where lines form and for water play features.
  • Provide a 3 ft. wide, one-way walkway using deck markings from the pool entrance(s) that extends around the pool(s).
  • Designate additional walkways to and from restrooms, concessions, up/down stairs, entrances/exits, and other high traffic areas where possible.
  • Provide ground markings 6 ft. apart where lines form for entry, concessions, restrooms, locker rooms, drinking fountains, and play features.
  • Remove chairs and tables from the pool deck and other seating areas where impractical to clean after each guest and allow patrons to bring their own chairs, with limitations on size and type of chair to be determined by pool operator. Chairs must be spaced to maintain 6 foot spacing between individual groups.
  • Limit each group size to 6 people or fewer where possible.
  • Members of the same household may be seated together.
  • Provide additional attendants to monitor lines for play features surrounded by water where markings cannot be placed.
  • Provide an adequate number of attendants throughout the PWRF to monitor patron adherence to distancing rules, and remove those who are putting others at risk.
  • Establish adult supervision ratio requirements for those unable to understand distancing rules, such as small children.
  • Heavily used PWRFs shall consider a reservation system with staggered arrival times to avoid crowding and establish an orderly method for patrons to determine available space prior to arrival.
  • Consider use of different colored wrist bands if time limits need to be assigned based on capacity and level of demand for facility usage.
  • Consider providing new pool rules, instructional videos, distancing requirements, and other educational materials on the facility’s web page or as part of the registration system.
  • Consider making regular announcements over the PA system promoting social distancing measures and good hygiene.
  • Hot tubs where social distancing cannot be maintained due to small size shall remain closed.

Health Screening and Monitoring

  • Check temperature of staff upon arrival at beginning of each shift using a touchless thermometer. Send staff home if temperature is 100.4-F (38-C) or above.
  • Provide a sign at PWRF entrance(s) listing COVID-19 symptoms that notifies patrons not to enter the facility if symptomatic or if they have had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, new or worsened cough, trouble breathing, new or worsening body aches, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell.
  • Staff/attendants and patrons should be screened and sent home if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or if they have had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 within the past 14 days.
  • Anyone sent home with symptoms should self-quarantine until they have met CDC criteria to discontinue or they have been cleared by a healthcare provider.
  • Keep a record of patrons and staff visiting the PWRF to assist health officials in identifying contacts should a patron or attendant become ill with COVID-19. This can be managed through use of membership cards or passes, entry key records or Point of Sale transactions. A hand written registry may also be used.

Protective Equipment

  • Patrons and staff shall wear fabric or disposable face coverings when not in the pool or eating at dinning tables.
  • The PWRF operator shall provide protective equipment to staff, such as gloves and fabric or disposable face masks.
  • Staff must be trained to properly don and doff protective equipment in such a way as to avoid touching contaminated surfaces or transferring contaminants to face, nose, or mouth.
  • Face coverings are required be changed if they become soiled or wet.
  • The PWRF shall provide no-touch waste containers throughout the facility for discarding used protective equipment.
  • Waste receptacles should be emptied frequently. Gloves shall be worn while emptying trash. After emptying trash, remove the gloves and wash or sanitize hands.

Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting

  • Pool water chemical balance must be monitored and tested no less than once every 2 hours of operation and prior to opening each day to ensure adherence to the requirements of the Saint Louis County Public Water Recreation Facilities Code (code).
  • If water does not meet code specifications, the staff or attendant must immediately close the facility and it must remain closed until such time as code requirements can be restored and maintained.
  • Hand-washing must remain a top priority. Patrons shall be encouraged to wash their hands after using restrooms and prior to eating. If hand-washing stations are not readily available, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol may be used.
  • If restrooms are not available at the PWRF, portable handwashing stations with liquid soap, disposable paper towels, and a waste receptacle must be provided and kept stocked with supplies.
  • Hand sanitizer shall be provided throughout large PWRF for patrons and attendants where hand washing stations are not readily available.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces throughout the facility often, such as shower and toilet fixtures and handles, door knobs, handrails, ladders, pool coping edges, counter surfaces, touch pads, light switches, baby changing stations, play structures, counters, lounge chairs, etc., using the EPA List N disinfectants that are best suited for your aquatic venue. Preference should be given for touchless trash can lids.
  • Avoid use of shared objects, such as pool noodles, kickboards and floatation devices. If shared objects must be used, disinfect using an EPA List N disinfectant after each use.
  • Discontinue use of shared objects that cannot be easily cleaned and/or come into contact with the face, nose, or mouth, such as goggles, nose clips and snorkels.
  • Discontinue group events, gatherings, or meetings both in and out of the water where social distancing of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live in the same household cannot be maintained.

Food Service and Vending Machines

  • All food operations must adhere to the Saint Louis County Food Code.
  • Please refer to the Restaurant Operating Protocols for additional operational considerations necessary to reduce transmission of COVID-19 in food establishments and dining areas.
  • Vending machine key pads, buttons, change slots and food retrieval areas shall be disinfected regularly using an EPA N List registered disinfecting product. Hand sanitizer should be placed near devices using touchpad or buttons.


The certified pool operator, manager or designee(s) shall independently close the PWRF any time that any part of the operational plan cannot be accomplished; including, but not limited to, lack of hand-washing materials or facilities, lack of PPE, inadequate pool water disinfectant, or inadequate number of a certified pool operator or designated attendants to complete the plan. The PWRF can re-open once operators are capable of carrying out all parts of the plan.

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