Public pools in and around the metro area are reopening using guidelines from the Georgia Department of Public Health. But since the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, many may wonder if it’s safe to swim.
The DPH has released a seven-page report detailing recommended steps for social distancing, keeping public spaces and furniture clean and prohibiting sick people from using the spaces.
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As long as social distancing measures are being taken, said Dr. David Caro, the Disaster Medical Officer for UF Health Jacksonville, it should be unlikely that transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, will occur if pools are properly chlorinated.
"If the pool is properly chlorinated or brominated then there should be no risk for COVID transmission from the pool itself," Caro told First Coast News. "The danger really would be the social distancing and how close we're going to get to folks that aren't within our family and aren't within our own contacts. That's how things might get transmitted at a pool."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there's no evidence that the coronavirus can be spread in swimming pools, hot tubs, spas or water play areas.
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As Caro stated, the CDC noted that disinfection with chlorine and bromine as part of proper facility maintenance should render the virus inactive in the water. The agency notes it's important that individuals and facilities operators take health and safety measures, including following local and state guidance, protect themselves by practicing social distancing and hand-washing, and following the interim guidance for businesses and employers for cleaning and disinfecting community facilities.
The CDC also suggests not sharing goggles, snorkels or other swim equipment, which can be difficult to clean. It also recommends not sharing food, toys or equipment with anyone pool visitors you don't live with.
Facilities should have adequate equipment, such as pool noodles and kickboards, to minimize sharing. If items are limited to one group at a single time, they should be cleaned and disinfected between uses, the CDC said.
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While wearing a mask is typically encouraged as a method of protection, Caro recommends against wearing cloth masks while swimming.
“It can get bogged down with water and could increase the risk of a drowning death,” he told First Coast News.
If you’re lounging by the pool rather than swimming in it, Caro also recommends cleaning the surface with disinfectant wipes.