A store near Hartford, Conn., just sold its last aboveground pool. The owner said he could easily sell 100 more.

Sand, a material crucial for erecting pools on a smooth and level surface, is hard to keep in stock for more than a few hours at one bulk supply company in New Jersey.

Casey Freeman, a nurse in Nashville who made a do-it-yourself video about how to create a pool out of a stock tank — commonly used as a water trough for cattle — has been deluged by requests for material and help with installation.

“People in New York City can’t understand why they can’t find a 10-foot tank,” said Ms. Freeman, 39. “And I ask them: Are there cattle ranchers near you? And they just don’t understand.”

Staring down the barrel of a long, hot summer — with vacations on hold and many camps, playgrounds and public pools closed because of the coronavirus — homeowners are hunting for creative ways to stay cool, active and sane.

For some, not having to pay for camps or vacations means more money to spend on other things.

Landscapers and retailers say sales of gardening soil, mulch and firewood — for fire pits — are soaring. Trampolines are hard to come by. And swing sets at one large Long Island distributor that has been taking orders online and by phone, Backyard Solutions, have been out of stock since March.

“People are just getting their names on the list and throwing down 25 percent and hoping to get it by August,” said Melissa Smith, a sales representative for the swing set distributor. “If we had someone here 24 hours, I guarantee they would sell all day and all night.”

And then there are the pools.

High-end in-ground varieties remain in demand among homeowners with deep pockets and the luxury to wait months for permits and construction.

But it is the aboveground versions that are the hottest items at many pool stores, both because of their relative affordability and ease of installation.

And they are a mere fantasy for those living in cramped apartments. Aboveground pools require ample space, which make them more viable for suburban and rural homeowners, who are driving the frenzied market.

“Sales are up exponentially,” said Steven Metz, president of Central Jersey Pools in Freehold. “Triple what it was last year.”

The wait time for purchase and installation is now stretching into July, he said, and calls are coming in from as far away as Wisconsin. One woman asked the store to overnight a pool to Long Island.

Prices for metal-frame pools, including installation, can range from about $3,500 to $15,000, Mr. Metz said, depending on size and sophistication. (Some can be sunken partially into the ground with built-in steps, for example, much like in-ground pools.)

“You skip your vacation, you can pay for your pool,” said Paul Healy, the owner of Splash Pool Supply in South Windsor, Conn., who sold his last remaining aboveground pool last Wednesday. “If I had a crystal ball, I would have ordered a lot more.”

Since mid-April, Google searches for aboveground pools have climbed steadily, outpacing the number of inquiries each spring for the last five years by about 300 percent.

“It’s really been 48 states and Europe,” said Doug Hollowell, the owner of one of the nation’s largest aboveground pool manufacturers, Doughboy Pools in Arkansas. “We’ve seen pool packages shipped to places we never thought they’d go.”

A man who answered the phone at Aquasports, a New Jersey pool manufacturer, said the company was “under siege.”

“It’s like the toilet paper and the water and the masks,” he said before declining to give his name.

Pandemic-related supply chain problems have intensified the shortage.

Doughboy buys most of its parts in the United States. But it relies on electric motors sold by companies in Mexico and China to power its pool pumps, and Mr. Hollowell said orders were significantly backlogged.

Workers at his plant in West Helena, Ark., which is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week because of the increased demand, have had child care issues related to school and day care closures. “We’re begging for employees,” Mr. Hollowell said.

The factory for an even larger pool manufacturer, Wilbar International in Hauppauge, N.Y., has been closed as part of the governor’s shutdown order.

“We’re hoping and praying that they get back up quickly because it will relieve this crazy demand,” Mr. Hollowell said.

While the explosion in sales is certainly good for business, Mr. Hollowell said he worried about the added risk of drowning, and he urged parents to remain attentive. “The only way to prevent accidental drowning is constant adult supervision,” he said.

Jackie Dahrouge, a preschool teacher from Belmar, N.J., began her hunt for a backyard pool soon after the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

She found one online and began clearing space for the 12-by-24-foot pool that she considered a down payment on a happy summer in an unpredictable world. If beaches close because of crowds or a spike in virus cases, her 8-year-old daughter and her extended family would still have somewhere to swim, she figured.

Two weeks later, the store notified her the order could not be fulfilled.

“We called every pool store. All the way into New York,” said Ms. Dahrouge, who lives less than a mile from the beach. “I even called companies in California.”

She eventually found one on eBay — in Oklahoma. It was shipped by freight truck, and relatives and friends helped to set it up on Saturday.

She said her family paid for it with money that would have otherwise been spent on a springtime vacation to Tennessee, which was canceled.

“We didn’t go away. We didn’t have a vacation,” Ms. Dahrouge said. “We said, ‘Let’s spend it on the yard.’”

Dominick Mondi, executive director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association, said it was too early to put a precise value on the boom. But sales, he said, have been “considerably above pace for this time of year.”

  • Updated June 2, 2020

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Two weeks ago, Andriano Placencia and his wife, Cecilia Ordonez, purchased the house they had rented for 20 years in East Windsor, N.J. Mr. Placencia, 41, said he had long dreamed of owning a pool, and watching his two children and his grandchild swimming outside.

The virus convinced him that it was time to make good on that dream.

“The beaches are open, but I don’t like to go there as much,” Mr. Placencia, a floor installer, said as he shopped last week for a pool. “There’s more security in your house.”

Kathryn Garrecht, 71, had no plans to replace her pool after it was destroyed this winter by a falling tree.

Then the pandemic upended everything, and her four grandchildren — including a 3-year-old she babysits daily and a 14-year-old who is autistic — needed somewhere to play.

“You know, what with the Covid-19, going to the beach was a little sketchy,” she said. She ordered an 18-foot round pool in April, and it was installed in her backyard in Wall, N.J., several weeks ago.

The desire to make indoor and outdoor improvements is driving a nationwide uptick in sales at independent home supply and hardware stores, according to Dan Tratensek, vice president of the North American Retail Hardware Association. In a recent survey, nearly three quarters of its members reported an increase in sales during the pandemic.

At the Yard in Scotch Plains, N.J., which sells mulch, sand and firewood in bulk, sales are up by about 35 percent, according to an owner, Kenny Midrano. He hired five extra workers just to split logs.

“Usually it’s 10 cords of wood a month this time of year,” he said. “We’ve been doing 150 to 175 cords. Everyone’s hanging outside at the fire.”

In early May, Joe Colangelo, chief executive of Boxcar, an app-based parking and transportation company, had a hunch.

“I bet pools aren’t going to open,” Mr. Colangelo said. “Let’s see what deals I can get on bulk prices.”

Boxcar’s revenue stream had evaporated in March when most commuters began working from home. The company pivoted, and is now arranging grocery pickups, organizing drive-in movie outings — and selling pools.

Last Tuesday night, Boxcar put 30 inflatable-style pools for sale on its app. They were gone by 7 a.m. Wednesday, Mr. Colangelo said.

One buyer, Nancy Colacitti, 46, said she had tried to purchase a pool online for her two sons.

“All sold out,” said Ms. Colacitti, of Cranford, N.J. Then she saw Boxcar’s promotion.

“And that was perfect,” she said. “We can stay safe at home, keeping the social distance. We are bringing the beach to us.”

Chang W. Lee contributed reporting.

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