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Ask Dr. Nandi: Outdoor swimming pools are not a high COVID-19 risk, expert says

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Posted at 4:05 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 19:21:27-04

(WXYZ) — With the weather hot and sunny, you might be thinking a great way to cool off is at the local beach or pool. But with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, will these popular summer activities be considered safe?

The good news is that swimming in pools, soaking in hot tubs or playing in splash pads or water playgrounds are generally considered to be low risk. And that’s because experts believe if a pool is properly maintained and disinfected, the chlorine would likely kill the coronavirus, just like it does with other similar viruses.

Question: So Doc, what about lakes. There’s no chlorine in them so are they safe to swim in?

Well, first let me say that there no known cases of people getting infected while swimming in lakes. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, similar viruses have shown that they are capable of living in natural freshwater like lakes and streams. Which means that they can be infectious at least for a short amount of time. But as I’ve said many times before, there’s still a lot that we still need to learn about this virus. And we simply don’t know yet if the coronavirus can be spread this way. But in opinion, it poses a low risk if the lake is not crowded and if the body of water is large. And that’s because of the dilution effect.

Question: What should people keep in mind if they decide to take a dip at the beach or in a public pool? Should they still wear masks?

Yes, you should still wear a mask, but not while you’re in the water. Otherwise you could end up with trouble breathing if the mask gets wet and heavy. As for what to keep in mind if you head to public pools or beaches, here are some questions I'd like you to ask yourself:

- Will you be touching handrails or pool edges that might be contaminated by others?

- Will you be entering busy locker rooms or bathrooms?

- What about the chairs – are they safely spaced apart?

- And lastly, if you’re at an indoor pool, is there poor air circulation?

Remember, whether you’re at the beach or at a pool, you should always keep 6 ft away from others at all times. You should also be washing your hands often, covering your coughs, and disinfecting chairs or benches you sit on. Lastly, don’t share gear with others like goggles, snorkels or pool and beach toys. Now, I know many folks are just plain tired of staying at home, but remember, the virus is not taking a break just because you’re ready for one.

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