Taoseños like to swim and that's presented an unforeseen issue for town of Taos staff during the coronavirus pandemic.
The town of Taos shut down operations at the Youth and Family Center, at 407 Paseo del Cañón East, in March following the announcement of the first cases of COVID-19 in New Mexico. This prompted the closure of Taos' only public community pool. Since then, the Taos Masters Swim Program has been the only group allowed in the pool.
"We've had no issues at all and we are super structured about how we have this handled," said Youth and Family Center Director Tony Struck.
The town of Taos is allowing the Masters Program, a private swim club, to bring in eight swimmers at a time in the mornings. Swimmers have one hour to get their workout and are brought into the pool based on assigned lanes. Odd lanes start on one side of the pool and even lane swimmers start on the other.
"The closest these people are going to get in the facility is when they pass each other in the opposite lanes," Struck said.
No showers are open to the public and only a restroom is available. Swimmers must come ready to swim.
The Masters Program is the only group of swimmers currently allowed at the Taos Youth and Family Center Pool.
Due to this, members of the general public must make a choice to pay the $55 per month membership fee or find another place to swim.
"It's not a solution to just tell swimmers to go to the Taos Swim Club," said Taos Swim Club Board President Kat Duff.
Swimming is limited to three sessions per day. Only one swimmer is allowed in the lap lane at a time. Since the club cannot open for more than eight swimmers at a time, Duff said the waitlist has been growing.
Duff said the club cannot accommodate the entire community of swimmers in the town of Taos.
"There are a number of lap swimmers who normally wouldn't join a master program, but since it's the only option, they are adapting," said Masters coach Craig Mallery.
The club must pay for Mallery to coach the swimmers and must pay the town for each swimmer, according to Duff. With numbers cut by the COVID-19 restrictions, Duff said the club is actually losing money.
"It doesn't sound to me like any change is in sight," she said.
The town of Taos is also looking at the situation financially and has been dealing with a $2 million budget deficit due to the pandemic.
A loss of gross receipts tax and lodgers tax revenues caused the town's financial staff to tighten belts around departments. Thousands of dollars were cut from the town's recreation budget, eliminating the positions of around 10 lifeguards for the pool, according to Struck.
Struck said he is awaiting orders from the town, as well as the state, as far as how to proceed safely during the pandemic. Struck said the new filter installed in the facility's pools carries a zero chance of survival for the coronavirus to live in.
At the moment, the Masters Program remains the only place for swimmers in Taos. Duff said swimmers can still sign up but the waiting list is growing. With limited pool slots, wait times could increase if more swimmers sign up.
The Taos Tigershark swim club has been unable to train this summer, despite the adults being able to get in the pool. Duff said the Taos High School swim team is also unable to train at this time.