This much, parents said, is clear amid the coronavirus pandemic, a global crisis marked by flux, uncertainty, and self-quarantine: Their children are home all day even as the adults attempt to work remotely. Outings for necessary supplies are hurried and infrequent. Socialization with the outside world has turned even more digital.
Parents have banded on social media to share ideas for placating cabin fever-stricken kids. Suggestions include repurposing air beds as trampolines, crafting homemade obstacle courses, and finding engaging computer games.
As the weather warms, another option has emerged: swimming pools.
“We opened more pools in March than we ever have before," said Doug Lacey, who co-owns JC Pool & Spa with his wife, Marie, in Phoenixville. “We normally start working in March, but not at this rate."
He knows why.
“People are telling us their kids are home,” said Lacey, 47, adding that adults, too, need the outlet provided by pools and spas. “We’re fully booked, and we have 80 people on a waiting list hoping to get squeezed in before Memorial Day.”
Families have even more cause to find energy-consuming activities as Gov. Tom Wolf said last week that Pennsylvania schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney predicted weeks to months more of isolation.
“We opened [our pool] a bit earlier than we otherwise might have,” said Tricia Chasinoff, a mother of two in Malvern, who called weeks ahead to get her family’s pool professionally cleaned. “We know we’ve still got a long stretch of isolation ahead of us, and we’re trying to make the best of it.”
Under a directive by the commonwealth, thousands of businesses have shut down until further notice, save for a list of industries the Wolf administration has deemed essential. Pool companies are among them, but only to clear mosquitoes and pests from stagnant pool water and perform basic maintenance.
Despite the uptick of calls to JC Pool and others companies, Lacey, owner of JC for 11 years, said he has had to turn away about a third of the work requested because he has allowed staff members to stay home themselves during the outbreak. Two of his pool technicians aren’t working at the moment, he said, and his general manager is working part-time.
“We’re at capacity, and if people get sick, I may not be able to accommodate," Lacey said, adding that he has instituted rules that his technicians need to follow when they clean a pool.
“Normally, you knock on door and let them know what you’re doing,” he said. Now, “we’re not going to initiate contact with the homeowner.”
Lacey said he hoped homeowners who chose to come outside to talk with the technician would follow proper social distancing guidelines.
Chasinoff, 49, said the pool company she hired asked her beforehand to set the equipment they would need out on the pool deck and refrain from touching it, then requested that her household not come near their employees.
“They called from the driveway to let us know they were here and getting ready to enter the backyard," she said, “and then called when they were done to let us know how it went and if we needed any additional service.”
Though pool companies that service residential pools are inundated with calls, business for companies that maintain and build commercial pools are in a slump.
“Unfortunately, with the way things are going, things are the opposite," said Matt Frey, general manager at Fox Pool Management in Newtown.
Apartment and condominium complexes are delaying opening their pools to mitigate spreading coronavirus, he said, and “who knows when those restrictions are going to be lifted?"
Frey said he hoped the federal $2 trillion emergency aid stimulus package that aims to support struggling businesses would help.
“Of course, it’s stressful for everybody," he said. “I think we’re all in strange times."