The CDC is not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, water playgrounds, or other treated aquatic venues. The virus most commonly spreads from person-to-person by respiratory droplets during close physical contact. Droplets are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. They can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. The virus might also spread to hands from a contaminated surface and then to the nose, mouth, or possibly eyes. Infected people can spread the virus whether or not they have symptoms.
It has not been easy for many people to maintain their level of fitness while sheltering in place, and we are eager to get back to our regular exercise routines. If that means taking a water fitness class, the CDC has recommendations for you to be able to do that safely.
- Correctly and consistently wear a mask that completely covers your nose and mouth. See my previous post “More about Masks” for more information https://waterfitnesslessonsblog.com/2021/01/30/more-about-masks/ Wear the mask until just before you get into the pool. You should not wear the mask in the water because a wet mask it is hard to breathe through. After class dry your hands and face and put the mask back on.
- Arrive at the pool with your swim suit on, ready to get in the water. This eliminates or at least minimizes the amount of time you spend in the locker room.
- Stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Six feet is a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle which is a good image to help you visualize the proper distance. Six feet is a good separation if your class is low intensity, for example aqua yoga or light aerobics. However, if your class involves sweating and heavy breathing, such as high intensity interval training, then air is coming out of your mouth with more force and traveling farther. For that reason, you should spread farther apart. In my classes we use periodization, beginning with low intensity in the pre-season and working up to high intensity during peak fitness. If you want to go all out during peak fitness then you will want to be 12-15 feet away from other participants.
- Avoid crowds. Do not congregate on the pool deck with other participants unless you have your mask on and are standing 6 feet apart.
- Do not share equipment. Since there is a chance that you could pick up the virus from a contaminated surface, deep-water belts and pool equipment should be sanitized before using them again.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Get vaccinated when the vaccine is available to you. Getting vaccinated does not mean that you can dispense with the previous recommendations. The vaccines are not 100% effective, so you might still get infected. New variants of the disease are circulating that are more contagious. It is expected that if you did get infected after you were vaccinated, you would have a mild case or perhaps no symptoms at all. Little is known about whether vaccinated people can spread the virus to others.
- Get tested if you have signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or if you think you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
For more information on CDC Guidelines, see https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/beaches-pools.html Additional information for this article comes from NPR November 20, 2020, NY Times 4/15/2020, The Dallas Morning News 2/8/2020 and 2/9/2020.
The last thing any of us want is a new surge of infections before enough people have been vaccinated that we achieve herd immunity. It is not known exactly what proportion of the population that would be, as the rate varies by disease. For now, continue to wear a mask, maintain social distancing, wash your hands, and sign up to get the vaccine when you can.
See you in the pool!