Swim Season: Can the Coronavirus Spread Through Water?

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By News Team on June 4, 2020

While many public pools have decided to remain closed until further notice, some hotels, apartment communities and fitness facilities like Carilion Wellness are working on procedures for how and when they can safely open theirs.

Currently, there is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread through the water used in pools. The coronavirus mainly spreads through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person.

Proper operation and disinfection with chemicals such as chlorine or bromine is key, so make sure to check with pool owners and facilities on their processes before deciding to go for a dip.

But what about the lake or beach, which don’t get routine cleaning treatments?

According to experts like Carilion Clinic's Infectious Disease specialists, if you practice proper social distancing, it’s still safe to enjoy a day at the lake or beach. Wherever you decide to spend your time in the water, make sure to:

  • Continue to maintain a distance of at least six feet from people you don’t live with, both in and out of the water
  • Bring your own water toys to limit any sharing of equipment, such as boogie boards and pool noodles
  • Bring your own chairs, or cover shared pool loungers or chairs with a towel before sitting on them
  • Be mindful of high-traffic areas and surfaces that are touched often, such as the railing on the steps in a pool, or door handles to a facility
  • Pack your own food and drink, and a supply of hand sanitizer or wet wipes to clean hands before eating if soap and water aren’t available
  • If you’re traveling, check on local or state restrictions

Perhaps most importantly, avoid public outings altogether if you or someone in your household has been sick or has been exposed to someone who is sick.

While it’s not as likely for the virus to spread through the water, if someone coughs or spits out water that they accidentally took in, it’s still possible to be exposed to their droplets if you’re within close proximity to them. That’s important to consider since those who are asymptomatic (aren’t showing symptoms) can still transmit the coronavirus.

Make sure that your water outing allows for a lot of space, rather than hot tubs and water playgrounds, which are still closed under Virginia’s Phase Two guidelines.

As restrictions are loosening in many areas, it’s important to stay vigilant about how to keep yourself safe.

And last, but not least, don’t forget the sunscreen!
This article was reviewed by Anthony Baffoe-Bonnie, M.D., medical director of Carilion Clinic's Infection Prevention and Control Department

See us safely at CarilionClinic.org/safe.
As always, and like never before, we're here to see you safely through all your health care needs. Visit CarilionClinic.org/safe to learn how. For up-to-date information about our response to COVID-19, visit CarilionClinic.org/coronavirus