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Georgia relaxed its restrictions on public swimming pools as long as operators follow guidelines including disinfecting high-touch surfaces and keeping people 6 feet apart. Epidemiologist Jennifer Horney of the University of Delaware says the actual water is safe, but she says pool operators should follow CDC guidelines before re-opening.


Horney: So public health experts, when we're thinking about any types of reopening after the restrictions that have in place due to COVID-19, we're looking to the CDC for guidance. And the CDC guidance has been fairly consistent on pools and recreational water since the COVID-19 pandemic began. A properly maintained and chlorinated pool should not be an environment in which the COVID virus can survive. And so it should be a relatively safe as long as we take some additional precautions related to cleaning and social distancing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the water. The CDC says proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (with chlorine or bromine) of pools should kill COVID-19.

Horney: The CDC recommendations for the pool environment include having additional staffing available for the things that happen outside the water. They don't want lifeguards to be focusing their efforts on cleaning or monitoring. They want them to be focusing on water safety. So additional staffing will be needed for cleaning those high touch areas, restrooms, check-in desks, those kinds of things every fifteen minutes to two hours with an EPA approved cleaner.

And pools may need to set up some sort of monitoring system or some sort of reservation system. Most estimates I've seen of pools should be able to operate initially at about 20 percent of their load. So if you have a pool that, say, has 100 members and would normally be able to accommodate them all at the same time, may have to put a reservation system in place so that people be able to use the pool on a rotating basis. But you'd never get the pool too crowded.

I think outside activities like pools and parks are really important part of the effort to slowly relax our social distancing guidelines that we've been living under for the past couple of months. There are a lot of indirect health effects of the type of social distancing we've been asked to do: isolation, exasperation of mental health issues, risk to vulnerable populations from either not seeking health care for chronic diseases, domestic violence. So we're seeing an exacerbation of a lot of things because of this social distancing. And so I think if there are relatively safe ways that people can begin to go outside and start to restart their activities, then we should encourage that.