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VERIFY: Is there evidence COVID-19 spreads in pools or hot tubs?

With summer around the corner, people are going to want to take a swim. But can the virus spread in that water? Based on research, our Verify team says no.

QUESTION:

Is there evidence COVID-19 can spread in places like swimming pools or hot tubs?

ANSWER:

No, the coronavirus does not spread in swimming pools or hot tubs, as long as proper cleaning procedures are adhered to. Additionally, social distancing and proper hygiene should be practiced in and out of the water

SOURCES:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA)

The Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC)

PROCESS:

Summer is right around the corner, and the nice weather is already starting to peek through. Naturally, that means more and more people want to get outside and take a swim.

According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, there are more than 10 million residential pools and more than 300,000 public swimming pools in the U.S.

Swimming is also the fourth most popular sport or activity in the U.S., according to the CDC.

So with the ongoing pandemic, the Verify team looked at research across the above sources, and an interview WCNC conducted with health expert Dr. Payal Kohli.

The CDC website states, "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."

It also says that proper operation and maintenance, like disinfecting with chlorine and bromine, should kill the virus.

This thought is echoed by the IHRSA, which said a well-run pool with appropriate water and chlorine levels should provide enough disinfection.

Kohli colors in the details a little bit more, explaining that chlorine isn't a magic cleaner. Its effectiveness against a virus like COVID-19 depends on other circumstances.

"There have been studies looking at whether or not chlorine and bromine, which are usually the two chemicals put in pool water, inactivate the virus. And the good news is, that they do, in fact, inactivate the virus in laboratory settings in the doses that are usually put in pool water," she said.

"However, the word of caution that I really want to give to people is that, if somebody’s in the pool and they're wearing deodorant, or powder, or if they pee in the pool, or poop in the pool, all of those types of things can actually inactivate the chlorine, so that it's not as available to work at deactivating the virus. Even something as simple as someone not having taken a shower, and then jumping into the pool, the oils from their skin can actually sop up that chlorine so that not as much is available to inactivate the virus," Kohli added.

This doesn't eliminate the other research noted above though. Social distancing in and out of the water is still recommended, and it's likely going to be the only way community pools can safely reopen this summer.

So based on the research, we can verify, no, the coronavirus does not spread in places like swimming pools or hot tubs. But remember to still follow local and state guidelines, plus practice social distancing and good hand hygiene once you're in and out of the water.

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