Are pools and lakes safe during the COVID pandemic? What we know

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Check your state’s restrictions before you go to the lake or beach.


Kent German/CNET

For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO web site.

Is it safe to invite people over for a pool party, or head to the beach or lake now that gatherings are allowed in many states? What about going out with the others on a boat? With the coronavirus spiking again in the US, there’s a concern busy beaches and public swimming pools could contribute to heightening this wave of the pandemic

Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization say the main method for the virus to spread is from an infected person to a different person through respiratory droplets, which an average of happens once they are within six feet of each other. Other experts believe the virus is airborne and can spread in tiny particles through the air from person to person, specially indoors with little ventilation. 

So what does that mean for you personally — can the virus survive in natural and human-made bodies of water and infect others? Is it safe to be outside with others you never live with? Here’s what we know about the coronavirus and the water you swim in. This article has an overview and isn’t intended as medical advice. It updates often with new information drawn from the CDC, state and county guidelines and experts in the medical community.

Is it safe to swim in a public pool?

While many public pools are determined to keep their doors closed until further notice, the others have already opened. The CDC says there isn’t any evidence the coronavirus can spread to people through pool water and that proper cleaning with chlorine or bromine should inactivate the virus if it’s in the water. 

So why are pools remaining closed if there’s no proof of the virus spreading through the water? Because of human behavior. While the coronavirus may well not spread easily through pool water, say if somebody spits out a big mouthful they unintentionally almost swallowed, it could still infect people in close range when heads are out of the water. 

For example, several people chatting in the shallow end, or playing a pool game could be more likely to acquire the virus from their companions’ breath or saliva (e.g., through shouting to be heard at a noisy pool) than from the water it self. 

In addition, pools, especially public ones, contain high-traffic areas and surfaces that are touched often, like the railing on the steps to obtain out of the pool or any doors to enter the premises. The principle of social distancing is to help keep people far enough away so somebody who may not know they’re infected doesn’t pass the virus on to someone else, or a group. Bathrooms, lunch lines, shady indoor areas and anyplace where people come in close proximity can increase your risk. 

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Keep your distance from the others while swimming in a public pool.


James Martin/CNET

What about the lake or beach?

Before you even think of going to the lake or beach, you’ll need to see if you will find any new local or state restrictions in your area. In some places, lakes and beaches are remaining closed to the public to simply help prevent the further spread of COVID-19. Many beaches in California are closed, for example, although some are only open for active recreation following physical distancing guidelines — which may be enforced by lifeguards or a beach patrol vehicle. This means hanging out to relax, grill or picnic won’t be permitted, especially in large gatherings.

If the human body of water near you is open and you’re planning on-going, it’s best to restrict your group to the members of your household. If gatherings are allowed in a state, it’s important that you limit the amount of people you’re spending some time with to help you properly social-distance. This may help keep the risk of seeing friends outdoors low.

CNET spoke with Andrew Janowski, an infectious diseases doctor at Washington University. He said the water is safe so long as you social-distance from those you are not typically in close experience of. He also said if someone who is sick with the coronavirus is in the water, they are unlikely to transmit it to others. He added, “The water will dilute out these secretions, making it much more difficult for a sufficient number of viral particles to come into contact with you.”

What if an infected person is in the pool or lake?

While you might not know if another person swimming in the water is infected, it does not hurt to play it safe and keep your distance from others. Even if somebody isn’t showing symptoms, asymptomatic people can still transmit the coronavirus.

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Experts say the volume of water in lakes and oceans will dilute the virus.


Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Can I go forth on a boat on the lake with friends since we’re outside?

The understanding among experts is the coronavirus can spread quicker in enclosed, indoor areas where folks are more likely to share the same air. And new studies suggest the coronavirus is airborne and can spread through the air.

Before agreeing to any boat plans with friends, first consider these questions: Do they live with me? Are stay-at-home orders lifted in my own state? Are gatherings permitted where I live? 

If you answered no to these questions, it’s safest to take a rain check on the invitation or keep the boat ride limited to the people in your household, if you’re the one doing the inviting.

If you answered yes to these questions, ask yourself an additional: Do I spend time with elderly people or anyone with a compromised immune system? Remember that remaining quite healthy helps keep those around you healthy aswell.

If you do go out on the water, use your absolute best judgment and make sure you have sufficient equipment to produce it simple for people to keep clean and distant. Some general recommendations: Don’t load your boat to the max with friends sitting shoulder to shoulder. Discourage reusable cups and the sharing of drinks (“Here, taste mine!”). Keep disinfectant wipes, soap and hand sanitizer handy. As an additional precaution, you might disinfect the surfaces when the passengers disembark.

Do I have to wear a mask?

The CDC recommends you wear a face mask or covering when social distancing is difficult. In this case, it could mean wearing a face mask when walking past a group of individuals to find an open spot to sit or while waiting in line at the rest room. 

Some places, like the Cocoa Beach Pier in Florida, require masks to be worn. The CDC advises you do not wear a mask if you are in the water as it makes it difficult to breathe when the mask is wet.

Here’s where you could buy a face mask online, buy face masks for kids and even fancy face masks that cost an astonishing $100 or more.

Are the bathrooms safe to use?

It’s hard to say. Ask the facility or park how usually the restrooms are cleaned. If it does not look like it’s been cleaned in a few time, you could feel convenient staying away. Wearing a face mask inside public restrooms is a smart precaution.

Also, make certain there’s soap and running water, or that you have hand sanitizer ready. Use paper towels to dry the hands, if available, rather than a hand dryer that may blow particles in the air.

If there is a long line waiting to obtain in, stand at least six feet straight back from the person facing you. Note that many public restrooms are remaining closed during this time around.

What you are able to do to help stay safe

In order to hold yourself and the others protected, we recommend following these guidelines:

  • Bring your own lounge chair and towel.
  • Don’t let your kids share pool toys with others.
  • Don’t share your drinks with friends.
  • Wash the hands often, if at all possible.
  • Bring hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes degrees of training to touch any shared surfaces.
  • Keep a six-foot distance from people who are not within your household — when you have to, you could even put two pool noodles lengthwise between each person.

While restrictions have loosened in several areas of the country, it is necessary that you know just how to help keep your self protected. Here are 16 tips to allow you to avoid the coronavirus when you’re out in public, what we know about how long the coronavirus lasts and if there will be an additional wave and what to do if you believe you or someone you reside with is infected with the coronavirus.

The information contained in this short article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a medical practitioner or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have of a medical condition or health objectives.

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