Coronavirus and Swimming: What You Need to Know

By November 2, 2020Pool Safety

Written by Ashley Abramson and published on

When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic in mid-March, swimming stopped for a lot of us. Pools around the country closed, and as of late July, only some have reopened, and many are operating in a much-reduced capacity. New protocols have been instituted to help keep swimmers safe, and each facility is approaching its reopening plans a little differently, based on local conditions and regulations.

Over the past five months, we’ve learned a lot about this new disease and how it’s transmitted. Although there’s still a lot that isn’t clear about the coronavirus and the potentially deadly disease it causes, COVID-19 (also called SARS-CoV-2), we have learned a great deal about what to expect from infections and how to slow transmission.

With regards to swimming, here’s a summary of current public health advisories and scientific understanding of what you need to know. Awareness of these key aspects of the virus and how it moves can help you keep safe as pools around the country resume operations.

Read This Before You Go to a Swimming Pool

Experts say there’s no evidence that the coronavirus is spread through the water, but that doesn’t mean a pool day is risk-free

The water provides a safety net

Before you enter the pool, survey your surroundings. “There’s always a risk of crowds coming out to cool off, so you need to look around before you even go in to sense your ability to distance yourself at least six feet from people you haven’t quarantined with,” says Cassandra Pierre, MD, an infectious disease physician at Boston Medical Center. If you don’t feel like you can adequately distance, consider going to another pool or swimming at a lower-traffic time of day.

“There are very few people who are going to spend long pool visits treading water in a 12-foot area, which can make the shallow end very crowded.”

Skip the post-swim shower if it’s indoors

Many publicly run pools make distancing a bit easier by reducing in-pool and on-deck capacity allowances. For example, the CDC recently offered guidelines to states about pool capacity limits based on a simple formula: the surface area of the pool divided by 36. For example, if the pool is 40 feet by 20 feet, or 800 square feet, the limit would be 22 people. However, Gan says that formula doesn’t take into account that people won’t be perfectly dispersed throughout different areas of the pool.

You should also delay your post-swim shower until you get home — Pierre says showering in an indoor communal space is a little dicey. “There may be a higher risk of spreading Covid-19 due to stagnant air,” she says. “You’ll also be closer to people, and they are much less likely to wear a mask in the shower.”

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