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Can coronavirus spread in water? Summer safety warnings during the reopening

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Everyone into the pool — just remember to leave your face mask on deck.

While seemingly mundane activities — including attending religious services, getting a haircut and dining at your favorite restaurant — are all high-risk for catching COVID-19, swimming during the coronavirus appears to be relatively safe.

Experts report that the virus does not live in pool water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread through the use of pools and hot tubs.”

But before you do your most obnoxious cannonball into the deep-end, here is what you need to know to ensure that an afternoon at the pool will not end with the virus swimming in your bloodstream.

Does chlorine kill the coronavirus?

Why not hit the pool?
Why not hit the pool?AP/Andrew Medichini

Chlorinated pool water is fatal for the miserable microbe. “The average amount of chlorine in a pool is going to kill the virus,” Roberta Lavin, professor of medicine at University of Tennessee’s College of Nursing, tells US Masters Swimming.



Does saltwater kill the coronavirus?

Similarly, scientists report that coronavirus is unlikely to thrive in ocean water. It prefers human saliva to, say, the Coney Island surf. And while fresh water may not kill this vicious virus, the likelihood of being infected on a lake is remote. “You’d probably have to drink the entire lake to get an infectious dose of the coronavirus,” Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, told the Los Angeles Times. “The dilution effect is so humongous.”

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What about sun bathing?

Coronavirus may not be able to swim, but it is more than adept at lounging. For that reason, it’s important to make sure that surfaces of beach chairs, slides and handrails are all routinely disinfected.

When to avoid the pool

Life guards wear masks by the swimming pool at the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Murray, Utah. As most of Utah moves to 'yellow' safety level, signs of normalcy begin to emerge. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP/Rick Bowmer

When your mayor says there’s “no way to control” crowding at parties near Lake of Ozarks, it’s time to find somewhere else to party. While water activities appear safe, maintaining 6 feet of distance from other people, in and out of the water, remains crucial. Swimming, drinking and socializing in close proximity of fellow revelers ranks as downright dangerous.

It’s also tempting to mooch goggles off of a friend or relative. We’ve all done it. But this is the summer when you need to buy your own. The CDC is “discouraging people from sharing items that are difficult to sanitize or are meant to come into contact with the face.” Nose-clips and snorkels also qualify as single-user gear.

When can you take off your mask?

We’re all sick of wearing masks — but we dread the social drubbing that comes with showing our faces. Good news for swimmers: The CDC advises that you absolutely should not wear a mask in the water. “Cloth face coverings,” the center warns, “can be difficult to breathe through when they’re wet.” And that can be just as deadly as a dose of COVID-19.

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