Issue 99 - May 2020
Operating Public Swimming Pools in the COVID–19 Environment
By Tim Karcz, Senior Risk Manager
Swimming pools and aquatics-related recreation attractions will likely provide cool relief as communities transition away from shelter-in-place orders. Preventing recreational water illnesses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, presents a multi-faceted issue that requires the participation of agency staff, swimmers, and public health departments. As of this writing, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
While the potential for ongoing community spread of COVID-19 remains, it is important for owners and operators of aquatics facilities to take steps to ensure health and safety:
- Everyone should follow local and state guidance that may determine when and how recreational water facilities may operate.
- Individuals should continue to protect themselves and others at recreational water venues both in and out of the water. For example, practice social distancing and good hand hygiene should remain in practice. For more information on this, including resources from the CDC, click here.
- The agency should require recreation waivers be signed by participants and parents/guardians prior to them participating in any recreational activity. Sample waivers have been revised and are available in the Resources and Library Section of the Authority’s website.
Open swim activities can be present challenges for implementing effective waiver requirements. If your agency has an open swim program, consider implementing an annual membership format whereby participants agree to pool rules and acknowledge the risk of participating in these activities through a waiver system at the beginning of the season.
- Keep swimming pools properly cleaned and disinfected.
- Maintain proper disinfectant levels.
- Take important steps prior to reopening pools and aquatics centers. Stagnant or standing water can cause conditions that increase risk for Legionella and other bacteria. The CDC provides specific guidance for reopening buildings after a shutdown.
- The CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code has more recommendations to prevent illness and injuries at public pools in parks. The Model Aquatic Health Code is a voluntary guidance document based on science and best practices that can help local and state authorities and the aquatics sector make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer.
- In addition to ensuring water safety and quality, owners, operators of community pools, hot tubs, spas, and water play areas should follow the interim guidance for businesses and employers for cleaning and disinfecting their community facilities.
The following links provide additional resources regarding COVID-19 and water safety:
If you have any questions, please contact your agency’s assigned Risk Manager.< Back to Full Issue Print Article