The annual summertime urge to splash around at places like community pools or beaches is stronger than ever this year. After spending so much time hunkered down, it’s only natural that we’d want to get out and have some fun! But even if our favorite swimming holes have re-opened, it’s still important to keep a few things in mind to keep ourselves safe from COVID-19.
Let’s start with some good news: According to the CDC, there is currently no evidence that the virus can spread through water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. The website explains, “Additionally, proper operation of these aquatic venues and disinfection of the water (with water or bromine) should inactivate the virus.”
That might lead you to assume swimming pools are the safer bet for your summer swimming needs, but natural bodies of water have their own way of self-cleaning, too. “The rapid dispersion of any infectious agents in a turbulent body of water such as an ocean or a lake would likely mitigate the risk of acquiring an infection from contact or submersion in the water,” Sudeb Dalai, MD, PhD, told Good Housekeeping.
But there’s more to consider, like the higher number of shared surfaces where the virus might linger at public pools. “Think about it: How many surfaces do you touch on a normal visit to and from the pool?” Roberta Lavin, professor of medicine at the University of Tennessee’s College of Nursing explained to US Swimming Masters. “You’re reaching for a door handle and using the card scanner or otherwise signing in. You’re getting changed and putting your clothes in a locker or on a bench. You’re touching a communal shower tap. If you use the restroom, that’s a whole other series of doors and surfaces to navigate.” Luckily, washing your hands frequently at these pools should help lower that risk just as it does in our everyday life.
Another important factor is size — public pools are generally smaller areas compared to lake or oceanside beaches. The CDC still recommends maintaining social distancing practices, which obviously becomes harder when there’s less space available to keep between you and others. Beaches can get plenty crowded, too, so use your best judgement before deciding where to take a dip.
The CDC also notes that although you shouldn’t wear cloth face masks while swimming around to avoid choking hazards, you should have them handy for when you’re back on dry land.
Here’s hoping we can all still enjoy our favorite summer activities this year with just a little extra caution and consideration.