Be­fore you dive in, take a dip into CDC re­search

Guide­lines: Team ef­fort needed to thwart virus

USA TODAY US Edition - - NATION’S HEALTH - Jayme Deer­wester

Look­ing for­ward to hit­ting the lo­cal pub­lic swim­ming pool for the first time this sum­mer? Pre­pare to put a face mask in your tote bag, al­though you won’t need to wear it in the wa­ter.

On Wed­nes­day, the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion pub­lished new guide­lines for op­er­at­ing swim­ming pools dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. The doc­u­men­ta­tion ar­rives just a few days be­fore Memo­rial Day week­end, when many out­door pools typ­i­cally open for the sum­mer sea­son.

“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,” the CDC said on its web­site. “Proper op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance (in­clud­ing dis­in­fec­tion with chlo­rine and bromine) of these fa­cil­i­ties should in­ac­ti­vate the virus in the wa­ter.”

Nev­er­the­less, the agency said, “While there is on­go­ing com­mu­nity spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, it is im­por­tant for in­di­vid­u­als as well as own­ers and op­er­a­tors of these fa­cil­i­ties to take steps to en­sure health and safety.”

The CDC tailored the fol­low­ing in­struc­tions to­ward pools op­er­ated by lo­cal gov­ern­ments, apart­ment com­plexes, home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tions, schools, wa­ter parks and gyms. The guide­lines do not specif­i­cally ap­ply to pri­vate pools or those op­er­ated by ho­tels, cruise lines and other travel-re­lated busi­nesses. Among the CDC’s sug­ges­tions:

Mask up – un­til you en­ter the pool

The CDC sug­gested that pool op­er­a­tors “en­cour­age the use of cloth face cov­er­ings as fea­si­ble,” not­ing that they are “most es­sen­tial in times when phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing is dif­fi­cult. How­ever, it ad­vised that staff tell swim­mers not to wear masks in the wa­ter be­cause it is dif­fi­cult to breathe through them while wet.

6 feet apart, in and out of wa­ter

It also sug­gested that pool op­er­a­tors change the lay­out of their seat­ing ar­eas so that pa­trons can re­main 6 feet away from any­one out­side their house­hold.

While in the wa­ter, swim­mers also should be ad­vised to keep the same dis­tance from any­one they are not

The onus to en­force these guide­lines will largely be on the life­guards and on-deck staff and their man­agers.

quar­an­tin­ing with.

The CDC did not ad­dress how to so­cially dis­tance lap swim­mers but pool op­er­a­tors could take a page from the guide­lines pub­lished by USA Swim­ming, the sport’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body, which sug­gested lim­it­ing swim­mers to one or two per lane and start­ing them from op­po­site ends of the pool.

Par­ents should con­sider whether their chil­dren can or will stay 6 feet away from peo­ple they don’t live with. If not, they should not take them to the pool.

The only ex­cep­tions to the so­cial dis­tanc­ing rule, the CDC said, should be in­di­vid­u­als in­volved with evac­u­a­tion of the fa­cil­ity in the event of an emer­gency or the res­cue or ad­min­is­tra­tion of first aid or CPR to a swim­mer in dis­tress.

Please cover those coughs, sneezes

The CDC in­structed pool op­er­a­tors to en­cour­age all staff and pa­trons to wash their hands and cover coughs and sneezes. And while the CDC didn’t sug­gest in­struct­ing pa­trons to take a shower be­fore en­ter­ing the pool, it is likely that pools that al­ready had that rule will ac­tively en­force it this sum­mer.

It’s pos­si­ble that some pools may go the op­po­site route, keep­ing their show­ers or locker rooms off-lim­its for the time be­ing and telling pa­trons to shower at home and wear their swim­suits un­der their clothes when they ar­rive and leave. That’s what USA Swim­ming has rec­om­mended ath­letes do for now.

Keep fre­quently touched sur­faces clean

The guide­lines also en­cour­aged pool staffs to reg­u­larly dis­in­fect fre­quently touched sur­faces on the pool deck and in the locker room, in­clud­ing:

❚ Pool lad­der han­dles

❚ Wa­ter slides

❚ Lounge and deck chairs

❚ Table­tops

❚ Pool noodles

❚ Kick­boards

❚ Door han­dles in locker rooms and re­strooms

❚ Show­ers

❚ Hand­wash­ing sta­tions

❚ Di­a­per-chang­ing sta­tions

For pool fa­cil­i­ties that pro­vide tow­els to pa­trons, the CDC ad­vised wash­ing in the warm­est ap­pro­pri­ate wa­ter tem­per­a­ture and al­low­ing them to dry com­pletely. It also sug­gested de­vis­ing a sys­tem so that fur­ni­ture, pool equip­ment and other items are dis­in­fected be­fore be­ing given to the next user and are kept sep­a­rate from ones that have not yet been cleaned. The CDC also rec­om­mended no-touch trash cans.

Don’t share gog­gles and other gear

The shar­ing of pool equip­ment that touches the face and is dif­fi­cult to dis­in­fect – such as gog­gles and snorkels – should be dis­cour­aged, even among pa­trons from the same house­hold. Any other gear should not be shared with peo­ple from out­side your home.

Whis­tles won’t be the only warn­ings you hear

The CDC rec­om­mended that pool staff use the pub­lic ad­dress sys­tem and the fa­cil­ity’s so­cial me­dia ac­counts to reg­u­larly broad­cast an­nounce­ments on how to stop the spread of the virus.

Who’s in charge of en­forc­ing all this?

The onus to en­force these guide­lines will largely be on the life­guards and on­deck staff and their man­agers. The CDC ad­vised pool man­agers to ar­range duty sched­ules so that staff who are not ac­tively guard­ing be as­signed to mon­i­tor the use of face cov­er­ings, hand-wash­ing and so­cial dis­tanc­ing prac­tices.

What if some­one gets sick or tests pos­i­tive for COVID-19?

Pub­lic pool op­er­a­tors should have a plan to iso­late staff or pa­trons with symp­toms, such as cough, short­ness of breath and fever, and trans­port them to their homes or health care provider, if needed. At least one per­son should be des­ig­nated as the COVID-19 point of con­tact. That per­son should re­spond to all virus-re­lated con­cerns and all staff should know how to reach that per­son.

The lo­cal health au­thor­i­ties should also im­me­di­ately be no­ti­fied of any COVID-19 cases and staff and pa­trons should be no­ti­fied of po­ten­tial ex­po­sure within the bound­aries of the Amer­i­cans With Dis­abil­i­ties Act.

Any em­ployee or pa­tron who has tested pos­i­tive for COVID-19, dis­plays symp­toms or has been around any­one with the dis­ease in the last two weeks should not en­ter the fa­cil­ity un­til they have safely ended their 14-day iso­la­tion.


The CDC rec­om­mends swim­mers not share gear that touches the face, such as gog­gles.

USA Swim­ming, the sport’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body, has rec­om­mended that teams re­turn­ing to the wa­ter limit the num­ber of ath­letes per lane.


If you aren’t sure your kids will be able to stay six feet away from their friends, the CDC says to think twice about bring­ing them to the pool.

Life­guards should en­force guide­lines like so­cial dis­tanc­ing, the CDC says.

Pool staff will be ex­pected to fre­quently wipe down lad­ders, the guide­lines say.

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