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Are you safe from the coronavirus at a swimming pool?

Published Jun 6th, 2020 9:01AM EDT
Coronavirus: Swimming pool
Image: AL DRAGO/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

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  • As the US attempts to reopen, people are trying to find safe activities they can do outside without catching the coronavirus, like going to a swimming pool.
  • Medical experts say that coronavirus can’t survive in chlorinated water, but there are still inherent risks to going anywhere that may have been visited by someone with the virus.
  • As long as the people running the pool follow the CDC’s guidelines, it should be relatively safe to go swimming, as long as the pool is outdoors.

As America cautiously reopens — despite the fact that the infection rate is still climbing in multiple states — plenty of people are going to try to find safe things to do on their own or with their families outside of the house. After all, many of us have been locked inside for nearly three months now, and we’re itching to go do something that doesn’t involve sitting on the couch. And with summer around the corner, what better place to go than the pool?

If you even so much at glanced at your phone over Memorial Day weekend, chances are you came across a video of people at a pool party in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks. Social distancing rules were flouted with reckless abandon as dozens of partiers packed together in the pool, swimming mere inches from one another for extended periods of time. And yet, miraculously, save for one Missouri man who tested positive for coronavirus days later, no additional cases have been reported. Which brings us to our question: How safe are swimming pools right now?

There are two reasons why a swimming pool (with the appropriate guidelines in place) might be a relatively safe spot to spend time if you’re looking to go outside. First, as Health notes in a recent article, outdoor areas are thought to be less conducive to transmission than indoor spaces. Second, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that they’ve seen “no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds.” And finally, chlorine is capable of killing the virus.

“The coronavirus doesn’t survive in chlorinated water,” infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh A. Adalja told Health.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly immune to the coronavirus when you dive into chlorinated water. If you are standing next to someone, having a conversation while waist-deep in the pool, you can still be exposed to the droplets coming from the noses and the mouths of the people around you. If you inhale a droplet that was dispersed from someone with the virus, the chlorine from the pool isn’t going to do you any good.

But even if you don’t get near anyone while you’re swimming in the pool, Dr. Adalja warns that everything around the pool can still pose a real threat: “There can be crowded conditions and common touch surfaces (like the deck and the locker room) that may provide an opportunity for the virus to transmit.”

The CDC provided guidelines for venues with pools, hot tubs, and water playground open to the public, which include cleaning and disinfecting handrails, slides, chairs, and restrooms, modifying the layout to keep guests at least six feet apart, ensuring that soap and hand sanitizer are being offered to guests, and asking everyone to wear face coverings at all times when they aren’t in the water. Every activity that involves coming into contact with anyone outside of your home is going to carry some degree of risk until there’s a vaccine, but if your local pool is making changes to ensure that guests are as safe as they can be, there are certainly worse activities to partake in this summer.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.