The scent of the pool during the summer is one of my favorite smells. As a former lifeguard, it smells clean to me. My whole life I've been told that there are few things that chlorine doesn't kill, but with COVID, I'm worried. Does chlorine kill coronavirus? Will it be safe to swim this summer?
We are all looking for ways to alleviate the cabin fever that has overtaken us during the quarantine, and spending a few hours lazing about the pool with an icy beverage sounds just about perfect. But how safe is it? Infectious disease physician and vaccination specialist Dr. Jonas Nilsen tells Romper that while The Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC) has put out a mandate stating that "the chance of COVID-19 to manifest in swimming pools, spas, jacuzzis, etc. is very low as they are treated with chlorine and bromine," it's the lack of social distancing in and around the pools that is dangerous. "Although COVID-19 most likely will not transmit through these places, it is difficult to keep a safe distance to other people, and for that reason, it is advised to stay away from public swimming pools for now," Nilsen says.
Just what you don't want to hear, right? Unfortunately, this appears to be the professional consensus among doctors and infectious disease specialists. Physician and educator Leann Poston of Invigor Medical tells Romper essentially the same thing as Dr. Nilsen: "It is true that the CDC has stated that chlorine and bromine both kill COVID and therefore there should not be any risk of the person-to-person spread of COVID in the swimming pool," but that you can't be truly safe if you're interacting in the same environment as strangers in close distance.
Because of this, some pools are implementing rules like a limited number of families inside the pool at a time, removing pool chairs so there are limited contact spots, and opening a smaller number of bathrooms for patrons. The CDC also has suggested guidelines, like wearing a mask when you're not in the water, disinfecting as many touch points as possible, and adding sanitizing stations to the pool area.
Dr. Nilsen takes it one step further, saying that in order to keep your home pool safe that you should "make sure to maintain a safe cleaning of your private swimming pool. You can use Free Chlorine in a concentration between 2.0 - 4.0 mg/L (Min. 1.0 mg/L) or Total Bromine in a concentration of 4.0 - 6.0 mg/L (Min. 2.0 mg/L). If you maintain your swimming pool by disinfecting it with this kind of product, the virus will be removed or inactivated." And yes, that is going to make your pool smell a bit like a bleach pit, and it's not going to be easy on the hair, but it's worth it. Might I suggest a swimming cap and immediate shower?
Physician and educator Leann Poston M.D., M.B.A., M.Ed. of Invigor Medical
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.