Summer is coming soon! For many people across the United States, that usually means swimming in public pools. Of course, COVID-19 and public pools are a tricky situation. We’ve written about swimming safety and the coronavirus in the past, but that was about your own personal swimming pool. Today, let’s take it to the community!
Hidden Dangers of COVID-19 and Public Pools
As it turns out, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the COVID-19 virus cannot survive in well-maintained pools, spas or hot tubs. The chlorine or bromine should kill the virus in the water. In the case of COVID-19 and public pools, there are a lot of other factors at play.
In your own home, you can take total control of disinfecting your pool area. You also control how many people are able to use your pool or hot tub. At a community pool, you do not have any such luxury. With this in mind, a person should not simply assume that public swimming pools are safe.
Besides the dangers that result from an unkempt pool, it is possible that the surrounding furniture might also be contaminated. Additionally, social distancing is extremely important in these trying times. When it comes to COVID-19 and public pools, adherence to social distancing rules is even more important than proper swimming hygiene. (That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still bathe before swimming!)
Open Pools, Water Slides and the Risks
Now, depending on where you live, there may be different rules. Some states are relaxing social distancing rules, or even dropping them altogether. Some businesses and public areas are re-opening, and in some cases this includes community pools, water parks and beaches. Regardless of how you may feel about this situation, it’s important to pay attention to your own health.
If guidelines allow, and you go to a waterpark or a beach, you should still be careful what you touch. According to all current research, the virus can live on surfaces. This includes railings, benches…you name it! If you can touch it, it can probably transmit COVID-19.
According to the World Health Organization, the virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel; on copper, less than four hours; on cardboard and other paper, less than 24 hours. That’s a serious risk for anyone spending time in a public place.
Don’t use any paper products in these areas, including toilet paper and paper towels. Additionally, be sure to disinfect any lounge chairs before you sit down. Finally, bring along plenty of hand sanitizer. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly each and every time you come into contact with a foreign surface.
Social Distancing is the Key to Safety
Above all, following social distancing guidelines is critical for everyone’s wellbeing. When swimming, each person should remain six feet apart at all times. The virus is transmitted by droplets from our mouths and noses, so even though the water may be chemically treated, there is still a risk of person-to-person infection.
Lifeguards should enforce this safety procedure, but just in case they don’t, every swimmer must remain vigilant. Don’t share toys or gear with other swimmers. For your own security, and the safety of others, it’s important to stay separate from others as much as possible.
Outside of the water, this distance should also be maintained. COVID-19 and public pools, beaches and any other communal open water source will be a constant threat. Upon exiting the water, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. A long hot, soapy shower will also help to mitigate risk. Safety should be all of our concern!