Michigan Swimming Activism Efforts to Re-Open Indoor Pools
July 21, 2020
I would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on, and make an ask with respect to, Michigan Swimming, Inc.'s efforts to advocate for re-opening of public pools as defined by MCL 333.12521(d), especially indoor pools that remain closed under EO 2020-110 and EO 2020-115.
Background Information: What We've Tried
When COVID-19 became present in the state of Michigan in mid-March this year, it was critical that we, as a community of Michiganders, make incredibly difficult sacrifices to protect public health by "flattening the curve" and avoid overwhelming hospital systems. Michiganders had the expectation that such sacrifices would be temporary, with everyday life resuming, using appropriate precautions, once the curve had flattened.
Months later, with a curve that has indeed flattened, Michiganders are slowly beginning to live a "new normal" with sectors of the state's economy being gradually re-engaged. Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have opted to re-engage sectors of the economy where operations can be conducted with proper safety protocols (social distancing, enhanced cleaning regimes, capacity limitations, etc.) in place.
We firmly believe that public pools, which serve a critical, purposeful function in our communities, can be operated in a safe, responsible manner, making them a reasonable candidate for re-opening.
Our message has consistently been two-fold and in alignment with the spirit of the message being promulgated by the national aquatics coalition: (1) public pools serve a variety of health- and safety-related functions in our communities and (2) public pools can be re-opened in a safe, responsible manner. For more information on either of these topics, please visit the national aquatics coalition website.
Over the past several months, we have attempted to communicate this message to Governor Whitmer's office and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services through various channels and using various educational materials. Unfortunately, we have received limited engagement from either entity.
Throughout this entire process, it has been our policy, and will continue to be our policy, to be intentional and deliberate with our efforts, making sure not to alienate allies in the state government as we push forward.
Moving Forward: An Addition to Our Strategy
It is apparent that, as a single entity with its efforts focused on education, we are not going to make significant additional progress in re-opening public pools in the state of Michigan. However, that does not mean that we give up. Quite the contrary -- we push harder and we change our strategy.
We have been working with USA Swimming and its partners to develop a new plan for effecting change at the state level. Today, I am excited to share a high-level overview of our new strategy with additional, more detailed information to be shared later this week.
Effective immediately, our strategy will include a more carefully-crafted and intentional community activism component. This community activism component will leverage a grassroots, on-the-ground organizing effort as well as an earned media campaign. Both parts of the community activism component of this new plan will continue to focus on the important functions public pools serve in our communities and the ability to open these facilities in a safe manner for such functions.
Behind the scenes, we are working to develop a local aquatics coalition specific to the state of Michigan in an effort to combine resources, political capital, and coordinate messaging strategies to further enhance our efforts. Through a coalition with a significant social interest in the re-opening of public pools, it is our hope that our message will be taken more seriously by state officials.
Pathway to Success: We Need Club Leadership Assistance
Activate your membership. To be successful with a large community activism effort, we will need your help. We will need you, as leaders of your clubs, to help activate your members and, critically, keep them on a centralized message. We ask that, as more information about this effort is disseminated later this week, you encourage your members to become involved in a responsible manner.
Continue operating as safely as possible. For those of you back in the water, we need you to continue your efforts to do everything as safely as possible, including practicing proper social distancing, avoiding situations in which large gatherings are possible, complying with all local, state, and federal health guidelines, and actively promoting use of face coverings when required. Our efforts fail far before they get off the ground if we cannot reasonably assert and support the basic premise that public pools can be operated in safe manner.
Showcase the safe operation of your public pool. As part of our earned media campaign, we would like to showcase exactly what it means to "safely operate a public pool". We have several teams that are in the water outdoors, operating in a safe, responsible manner. If you are interested in showing how your club is doing this, via video or written testimonial, your assistance would be greatly appreciated. You can contact me directly for more information and to get involved.
These are trying and frustrating times; there is no doubt about that. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: to re-open public pools for our communities. Now more than ever, it is critical that we come together, through one movement and behind one message, to have the best shot of getting this done.
This message was originally sent to club presidents & head coaches through Constant Contact and posted on the Michigan Swimming website as a courtesy to all of our members so our efforts are as transparent as possible.