By Craig Lazzeretti and Ann Peterson
(Monday, Nov. 2) The Tice Creek indoor pool facility can reopen this week for recreational swimming — at least for now.
Because of continued gains in reducing the transmission of COVID-19, California moved Contra Costa County from the red tier to the less-restrictive orange tier on Oct. 27, allowing for the reopening of indoor pools, among other indoor activities. The orange tier indicates a moderate risk level for COVID-19 transmission, compared with the substantial risk of the red tier.
Rossmoor plans to reopen Tice Creek’s two indoor pools at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 5, Director of Resident Services Jeff Matheson said. After that, the pools will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (except on Thursday when it is closed for cleaning until 10 a.m.) and weekends from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. as long as the county remains in the orange tier or higher. The spa will remain closed.
Pool reservations for Tice will begin Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 7 a.m. The same pool-reservation system will be used for the Tice Creek pools that is currently in effect for the Hillside and Dollar outdoor pools (reservations can be made on the app or online at www.ticefitnesscenter.com or by calling 925-988-7854, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) A maximum of 10 residents will be allowed in the exercise pool and six in the lap pool for each session.
Tice will offer aqua aerobics classes in the exercise pool by reservation only. Classes will be listed on the Tice Warm Pool schedule, along with the general use time slots. Residents are reminded to choose carefully between general use or aqua classes when making Tice Warm Pool reservations as general use will not be available during class times.
The entrance for Tice pools will be through the patio closest to the parking lot.
The orange tier also allows the Fitness Center to go from 10% to 25% of capacity, but Matheson said it will only expand from 10 to 15 people per session for general use — for the time being. Some in-person group classes also will resume in the larger gymnasium by reservation only, as classes will be capped at 10 participants. Residents are permitted to sign up for two Fitness Center visits per one, one visit per day and class reservations will count as part of those visit limits.
“With our high-risk population, we feel it’s better to make a more measured adjustment,” he said. “We want to do it as safely as possible while still giving as many people reservation times as we can.”
Reservations for Fitness Center sessions can be made by calling 925-988-7850 or online by following the “Reservations” link at www.ticefitnesscenter.com, or using the Tice Creek Fitness Center APP.
Residents should check the website (www.ticefitnesscenter.com) and Fitness Center newsletters for additions to programming, which will roll out throughout the month of November.
Matheson was also awaiting county guidelines and direction about whether Rossmoor can open the art studios and whether the Oak Room is classified as a card room and can open. Concerts also are allowed outside for audiences up to 50 people, “but we need to see the guidelines on that,” he said. “There’s a lot we have to unpack in here.”
The reopening of the Tice Creek pools could be short-lived, however, if the county’s coronavirus numbers head in the wrong direction and it slips back to the red tier. Contra Costa Health Services said Oct. 27 the county would remain in the orange tier for at least two weeks, after which time the state possibly could move it into the even less-restrictive yellow tier or back to the more-restrictive red tier. Tier designations are based on coronavirus metrics over a two-week period; the state updates its official numbers every Tuesday.
The county could fall back into the red tier as early as Tuesday, Nov. 10, if the metrics go the wrong way, which Matheson said is taken into account as reopening plans are developed.
“The last thing we want to do is yo-yo with people,” he said. “We want to be cautious and gradually introduce these things, especially because if we do need to scale back, then we can do it with minimal disruptions for the residents.”
Matheson said the Fitness Center plan is to slowly introduce classes and look at ways to use the studios and gyms while maintaining social distancing and other safety measures. “We will make changes throughout the month,” he said. “It will be more gradual.”
The move to the orange tier came not a moment too soon for a group of Rossmoor swimmers who had planned to take their frustrations over the continued closure of the Tice Creek facility directly to the Contra Costa Environmental Health offices last week as part of a “free our pools” protest.
“We have people in their 80s and 90s who need that pool open for their mental and physical health,” said Patty Hara, who had helped organize the protest before the county’s move to the orange tier made it a moot point. “There’s no reason that pool shouldn’t be open.”
Rossmoor reopened the Tice Creek facility in June based on county and state health orders then in effect but was ordered to close it in early September when the state classified it as an indoor pool facility.
The facility has a retractable roof with windows that open on three sides.
“To qualify as an outdoor pool, all sides must be open and have good air circulation,” Contra Costa Health Services spokesman Karl Fischer said in September.
Hara said she had tried to convince county officials for weeks that the pools should be reclassified to allow lap swimming to resume and had also enlisted the help of Walnut Creek’s mayor, but it had been to no avail.
While the Hillside and Dollar outdoor pools had remained open by reservation, residents are limited to three swim sessions per week. Steve Elefant, who worked with Hara on organizing the planned protest, said he had been swimming a mile each day before the Tice Creek pools were shut down.
“Everyone wants to swim, and there are just not enough lanes,” he said.
Before the county announced the move to the orange tier, Elefant said he believed the Tice Creek facility was safe for residents to use.
“I think considering what we’re seeing now with restaurants and businesses being able to operate at 25% to 50% capacity, this is very light compared to that and a lot more open,” he said. “There’s a lot of fresh air and ventilation.”