Summer is coming! You might not be throwing any big parties any time soon, seeing as social distancing measures are here to stay for a while. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid all of your favorite summertime activities—like swimming, for instance. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas.” On top of that, chlorine and bromine, two chemicals typically added to recreational bodies of water as disinfectants, will help inactivate the virus.
Before you go rushing off to the nearest pool, consider the bigger picture. “The problem with swimming is not so much about getting the virus from the water, it's about getting it from other people who are sharing that water space with you,” says Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
The Problem with Pool Parties
The coronavirus is spread through respiratory droplets (i.e., the bodily fluids you inadvertently spew out when you cough, sneeze, or simply talk with gusto), which is why wearing masks to contain those droplets is essential when you’re around other people. But swimming with masks is not advisable, lest you accidentally drown. So if you’re in the pool with friends, for instance, and an infected person coughs near you during a rambunctious game of Marco Polo, you can very much still contract the virus through the air.
Then there’s the issue of all the social activities that happen around the pool, like eating or drinking. You’re definitely going to have to take off your mask to take a bite of that hot dog or a sip of that lemonade, which is very risky unless you’re a solid six feet away from the nearest person. “Social distancing would provide a reasonable degree of protection there,” says Dr. Russo, who notes that being outdoors is also helpful, as the virus is able to disperse more quickly than it would in a confined space. But unfortunately, you can’t control the actions of others, meaning it’s quite easy for a contamination slip-up to happen, especially if you’re at a crowded public pool.
“A private pool is safer than a public pool simply due to the number of people around,” says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, the West Coast regional medical director of healthcare provider One Medical. “That being said, now is not the time to host a private pool party.” It takes just a few microscopic droplets from an infected person to sicken a whole group.
How to Safely Swim with a Small Group
If you're absolutely desperate to share your private pool with a very small group of your closest friends or family members, you need to follow quite a few rules to help prevent the possible transmission of the virus.
- First, ensure your pool is properly sanitized with chlorine and bromine.
- Second, stay appropriately socially distanced at all times during your gathering, both in the water and out. This means you should probably keep to standing, wading, or lounging in the pool rather than actually swimming or splashing around.
- And third, wear masks when you’re not in the water for an extra layer of security—and probably don't offer up any snacks or drinks to your guests.
So, no, you won’t be throwing the most lively get-together, but you’ll still be able to host if you strictly adhere to the rules.
The bottom line: If you have a private pool, it’s perfectly safe to go swimming with the people you’ve been living with during lockdown. If you want to invite others over, keep it to a small group of trusted individuals who have been—and will continue to—follow social distancing rules. And just be wary of public pools: As the crowds grow larger, the likelihood of transmission increases. In any case, groups of people who aren’t following safety protocols are a recipe for infection, so be smart and safe in order to stay healthy this summer when swimming.
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.
You Might Also Like