It's Summer: But Is It Safe To Swim In Public Pools?
Summer swim season will be very different this year, with many public pools still closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said we won't see pools open any time soon in L.A. (but Riverside County just opened them).
Those who swim regularly have missed their fix, like Jo Wallfisch. She and her friends on a Masters swim team have been fish-out-of-water since pools were shut in March. She's been compensating by working out in a backyard pool, tethered at the waist by a line attached to a heavy fishing pole.
But before she's ready to return to swimming at a big public pool, she wants certain questions answered. "The main things are, like, changing rooms," she said. "Can we share lanes? If not, how many people are gonna be able to swim at the same time?"
Public health expert Chris Wiant says that water is safe in a pool that's properly maintained with chlorine disinfectant. We also already know that, even without chlorine, the virus is unlikely to spread through water. The challenge is all the other people using the pool.
"You can be, say, standing in the shallow end of the pool and the water's fine. But if you're still coughing on the person who's three feet from you, you're just as exposed as you are if you're not in the pool," he said.
That's the challenge facing Kurt Knop, president of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center, which hosts 450,000 visitors a year. The constant cleaning required to keep the virus away could be daunting.
"Doors, handles, locker rooms, every aspect, at least for the short term — for sure it's going to be very different," he said.
Knop is working with other pool managers to advise public health officials about how to safely return to the water. It might involve swimming by appointment, and no locker for your clothes, no parents at swim meets. They'll be live streamed.
In the meantime, you've still got options — a backyard pool (if you're lucky enough to have one) or the beach.
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