This One Thing Puts You at Risk for COVID-19 at the Pool, Doctor Says
Here’s what concerns this infectious disease doctor about pool environments in the time of coronavirus.
It's now July and the coronavirus shows no signs of stopping, leaving many Americans looking for relief from quarantine fatigue and the heat by venturing outdoors. And that can be a good thing: Outdoor environments provide a dose of vitamin D, a mental health boon, and are generally considered much safer than indoor spaces when it comes to the potential for coronavirus transmission. If you don't live near the coast—or your beaches remain closed—you're probably seeking refuge at your nearest pool.
Fortunately, Thomas Russo, MD, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, says that, seeing as pools should be chlorinated and chlorine deactivates the virus, pools themselves should be COVID-free. But of course, that doesn't mean the same can be said for the pool-going experience as a whole. "The pool itself isn't a risk—it's the people around the pool and the interactions around the pool," Russo says.
Specifically, the doctor says he'd avoid a pool where there are other people in large groups, who are not wearing masks and flouting social distancing guidelines.
"If [I] see that people have bad behavior—they're not wearing masks, they're in close quarters—I would probably say, 'Thanks, but I think we're going to pass,' either by being honest or feigning some kind of excuse," Russo says. "As awkward as it might be, if you see that people are not going to be wearing masks, are not going to be distancing, I wouldn't touch that scenario."
The experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree. "There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools," they write. However, that doesn't mean you're 100 percent safe. "While there is ongoing community spread of the virus, it is important for people … to take steps to ensure health and safety," including "staying at least 6 feet away from people you don't live with and wearing cloth face covers when not in the water."
For more ways to stay safe poolside, check out This One Thing Can Keep You Safe From Coronavirus at the Pool.