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Arkansas public pools, water parks to reopen May 22 with restrictions

Each facility will have to follow strict guidelines and can only allow 50% of its capacity.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Governor Asa Hutchinson announced Friday (May 8) that public pools, water parks, splash pads and swim beaches can reopen before Memorial Day.

Each facility will have to follow strict guidelines and can only allow 50% of its capacity.

People will not be allowed to enter the facility if they have a fever, COVID-19 symptoms or have had contact with a positive patient. 

They will also have to keep six-feet social distancing in all areas.

The governor said if needed, fewer entrances will be open to avoid overcrowding. The parks will have to mark distancing guidelines on all slides, diving boards and anywhere with a line.

Areas that are frequently touched will have to be highly disinfected.

Tables and chairs must be moved six feet apart, but families will still be allowed to sit together.

The guidelines also include that pools must conduct pH testing twice a day.

The governor said that lifeguard testing can begin Friday (May 8). 

Credit: KFSM

Bentonville Parks Director David Wright says he can't say for sure when the Melvin Ford Aquatic Center will reopen, but they are hoping it will be Memorial Day weekend.

“Normally by now we have everyone on the payroll and we are training our staff from everything from emergency response to how to maintaining our pool," Wright said. "Right now we don’t have anyone on our payroll because we didn’t know where we would be.”

Wright says the first step is to onboard their staff.

“Then we get to the training aspect and I don’t know if that is something we want to take any shortcuts on," Wright said. "We want to make sure we are giving all of our staff the thorough training that we always do to make sure our patrons are as safe as they can be when they are in the water.”

Springdale Parks and Recreation Director Chad Wolf says their splash pad and aquatic center are tentatively set to open on June 8 to give them time to also hire staff.

“Amongst my peers, we were thinking maybe the first of July and have half a season but this will help us out," Wolf said. "Our pool holds 1,250 people, so I guess technically we could have 625 show up and that would be good for us.”

Both aquatic centers say they will be using different disinfecting measures to make sure the pools, restrooms and sitting areas are clean as they possibly can be.

During his daily briefing, the governor also said that expecting mothers will have to be tested for COVID-19.

The Arkansas Ready for Business website launched Friday to provide information for businesses in the state.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson COVID-19 update May 8: 

  • 3,747 positive cases 
  • 64 hospitalizations (down 6) 
  • No new deaths, 88 total 
  •  2,355 tests in the last 24 hours

Dr. Nate Smith, Director of the Arkansas Department of Health: 

  • 12 of 82 new cases in correctional facilities
  • 14 patients are on ventilators
  • 2,968 recoveries

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