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An Update on Pools from the CountrySide Board of Directors
We wish to offer a sincere “Thank you” to the residents who attended and participated in the June 18. 2020 Special Meeting on the Pool Season. We appreciate your time in voicing your opinions and listening to both your fellow residents and to the Board members.
At that Special Meeting, the CountrySide Board of Directors voted to not open CountrySide pools under Phase 2 of the Governor’s Forward Virginia plan. There are several reasons for this decision. First and foremost is our consideration for the health and well-being of our residents, and our concern that we could not adequately protect CountrySide residents from the substantial risk posed by the pandemic. Other factors include the scarcity of, and extended lead times to purchase necessary supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizer dispensers and refills, signage, etc.; the uncertainty in securing sufficient staffing to meet all regulatory and safety requirements (lifeguards, cleaning staff, social distance monitors, etc.), and the liability risk to the Proprietary and its homeowners.
The FAC and the Board will continue to work with PMP and Sunset to address the supply and staffing questions that must be resolved before we can confirm a readiness to open. We will also evaluate the newly issued requirements for Phase 3 for their implications for pool operations at CountrySide, and we’ll closely monitor announcements from the Governor’s office on the timing of Phase 3. For more detail on Phase 3 requirements, please see https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/governor-of-virginia/pdf/Virginia-Forward-Phase-Three-Guidelines.pdf
We appreciate your patience as we navigate the challenging issues surrounding management of CountrySide during a pandemic. Please watch the website, www.countryside-va.org, The Courier newsletter found on the website, and e-mail communications for further updates.
FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
To our CountrySide residents,
The Facilities Committee and the Board of Directors would like to remind you that our pools are currently closed due to pandemic restrictions. We understand that this is frustrating (to us, too!), but please understand that the members of the Facilities Committee (FAC), Board, and PMP have devoted many, MANY hours to researching and investigating this very complicated issue, to determine what it would take to meet the mandatory requirements imposed by the Governor. The virus is an extremely contagious and serious disease; an inherent risk of exposure to Coronavirus exists in any public place where people are present. We have heard residents comment “Other HOAs have opened their pools!”—but our research shows that many HOAs have not. The Board will meet virtually on June 18th to discuss the CountrySide 2020 pool season; please see website for details on how to attend the meeting.
On June 2, 2020, Governor Northam announced new guidelines for Phase 2, which Northern Virginia can enter on Friday, June 12th. Those guidelines included very specific restrictions for swimming pools, including (but not limited to) “Indoor and outdoor swimming pools may be open for lap swimming, diving, exercise, and instruction only”. Recreational swimming or “free swim” is expressly excluded from Phase 2. This means that residents hoping to visit the pools for social activities, or to allow their children a change of venue after weeks of restricted activity, are unfortunately forced to wait until Phase 3 at the earliest. Lap swimming in Phase 2 may include three swimmers per lane, but those swimmers must maintain 10 feet of distance between swimmers, and others using the pool must maintain a social distance of 10 feet in all directions. The increased social distancing requirement is based on the idea that anyone who is performing the allowed activities will be “forcefully exhaling”, and forceful exhalation carries respiratory droplets (a major transmission factor) much further than normal breathing. This new requirement dramatically reduces the operating capacity of our pools, to less than 25% of “normal” (pre-COVID-19) operating levels, meaning we could only admit about 40-50 people per pool at a time. There is no exemption from maintaining the 10-ft social distance for family members, as the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) believes it’s unreasonable to expect pool staff to keep track of who belongs to which family in the water. In a webinar on the subject, a VDH representative informed us that violation of Phase 2 guidelines is punishable as a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
FAC and PMP are continuing to investigate the cost and availability of services that will be required to open and maintain the pools legally and safely, so that the Board can make informed decisions. The additional costs are significant: we currently estimate that it could cost CountrySide an additional $10,000 – $15,000 per month per pool—all unbudgeted—to comply with the additional requirements. Those unbudgeted costs are only partially offset by any savings (e.g., no lifeguards) from the times the pools are kept closed and could lead to an increase in assessments in 2021. CountrySide is still required to maintain pools, open or closed, to protect our assets and to avoid other health concerns, so we still need to pay our pool management company, Sunset, for those services. We are also working with Sunset to ensure that they can provide sufficient lifeguard staff if/when we reopen; since new lifeguards cannot currently be trained and certified due to social distancing guidelines, and international guards are not possible this year, staffing is a major issue for most pool companies, and we have no guarantees that sufficient lifeguards will be available if we decide to open. We must also develop a scheduling system to manage patron flow at the pools in light of the capacity restrictions resulting from the increased social distancing. The Board also has a duty to consider the liability risk to CountrySide and ensure that the Proprietary’s assets are sufficiently protected against the unprecedented scope of the pandemic; several industry experts have warned about the substantial liability risks of opening pools this season. The Board will consider all of these factors and more in its decision next week.
We encourage residents to follow further announcements and updates from the Governor’s office, especially as the information is constantly changing. The following links may be helpful:
We hope this provides some insight into our considerations.
CountrySide Board of Directors
CountrySide Proprietary | 2 Pidgeon Hill Drive, Suite 560, Sterling, VA 20165 | p: 703.430.0715 | f: 703.430.8094