Madison's Parks & Recreation Board has voted to recommend to the city commission to not open the Madison Aquatic Center this summer.
We expect the city commission to consider the recommendation at its May 4 meeting.
The recommendation is based, of course, on the coronavirus pandemic and recommendations by the state of South Dakota and the Centers for Disease Control. The board is putting the health of aquatic center patrons and staff first.
Many factors were considered in addition to CDC guidelines about the possibility of the virus being transmitted in locker rooms, picnic tables, poolside chairs or the snack counter. There is uncertainty about the ability to prepare the facility for the season for a late start and the ability to ramp up summer staffing.
Nevertheless, we would hope the commission won't make closing the center for all of 2020 an irrevocable decision just yet.
First, there appears to be at least some momentum to reopening parts of our state. Gov. Kristi Noem unveiled the outline of a plan to do so Tuesday, five days after the Parks & Recreation Board voted on its recommendation.
Second, some statistics are indicating that the worst infection rates are behind us. South Dakota's peak number of cases reported was two weeks ago, with today's report showing about one-third the cases we had on April 15. Lake County has had four cases of COVID-19, with three of those cases having recovered.
Let's be very clear: we're not suggesting the Aquatic Center be opened immediately. We're suggesting that the vote to remain closed be open for reconsideration in the next few weeks.
Yes, we understand all the challenges and ramifications of opening the Aquatic Center later than usual. And yes, it may not be practical. But the center is a very important part of the recreation culture of Madison and could be a significant contributor to boosting the morale of our city. The image of a locked outdoor pool all summer is discouraging. The sights and sounds of an open outdoor pool could be inspiring and a real tonic to the spirit of the city.
-- Jon M. Hunter