Depending on where you live, it’s possible that your local government is reopening public pools. Obviously, swimming is a healthy endeavor for your body and mind… but is it safe to go back into the water yet? As you’ll see, it’s complicated.

We’ve covered COVID-19 and community pools before on this blog, but that was a few months ago. As we’re all no doubt aware, guidelines are changing rapidly. It doesn’t hurt to revisit this subject with this new information in mind. That’s right: it’s time for some new safety tips!

COVID-19 and Water

As we’ve mentioned several times in past blogs, it turns out that the spread of coronavirus in the water isn’t much of a worry. 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 many other factors at play. So as long as part of reopening public pools includes thorough cleaning and water regulation, the pool itself should be relatively safe.

The next question is whether or not it’s safe to be in the water with strangers who may or may not be infected. After all, water can transmit a variety of bacteria and viruses, so is it possible to catch COVID-19 from the pool?  If you’ve been responsible and staying home, you may feel comfortable with your infection status. However, stepping into a public space can lead to a lot of questions.  You’ll need to keep in mind that just because you have been super safe doesn’t mean that others have been as tentative as you have been.  See the next section for more on this.

Blazing Heat and Reopening Public Pools

In large swathes of the United States, we’re right smack in the middle of a heat wave. When combined with face masks and people being cooped up in their houses, it’s no wonder that people are anxious to take a dip. Fortunately, many states have begun to loosen their restrictions when it comes to reopening public pools. That’s great news in terms of getting back to our “new normal,”, but it’s far more important that we all act responsibly. If your local area is allowing people to swim in the community pool again, it’s essential that you take a few necessary safety steps to heart.

Until more states pass legislation granting immunity for coronavirus exposure, each community must act to protect its citizens from risk of infection. This means that individual facilities will need to be responsible and follow expert advice and guidelines before even thinking about reopening public pools. Just because your local pool is open doesn’t necessarily mean that all the necessary guidelines are being followed. It is up to each of us to do our due diligence before hitting the water.

People are the Problem

So the good news is that the water should be safe. The bad news is that the people probably aren’t. This is where social distancing can be a life-saver.

As government stay-at-home orders are being gradually relaxed, people are eager to get to the pool. Unfortunately, the real danger in reopening public pools comes from the masses of people excited to use them. Close-quarter crowd situations can be excellent incubators for spreading the virus. While everyone can hope that the community pools will enforce safety protocols, it’s far more important for individual swimmers to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of themselves and their families.

Additionally, and most importantly, swimmers should not even consider going near the pool area if they currently have any COVID-19 symptoms or have recently tested positive.

Suggested Guidelines for Safer Swimming

If you live in an area that is reopening public pools, you should make sure that strict precautions are in place. Here are a few suggested guidelines:

  • Social distancing is necessary. Each person should remain six feet apart at all times. The pool should display markers and dividers to keep sunbathers and swimmers a safe distance apart from one another.
  • To limit attendance levels, each pool should be closed off to anyone beyond community residents. Prohibit guests from the pool or pool area.
  • The amount of pool furniture, such as lounge chairs, should be limited as well. This will help to discourage extra guests from hanging around.
  • Pools should consider limiting hours of operation and require a sign-in system. Each person should only swim for a limited amount of time, for instance 30 minutes a day. This will allow more people to use the pool without endangering the other guests.
  • Pools should post signs to inform swimmers of the safety protocols. Once an hour, lifeguards should make an announcement to remind everyone of these guidelines.