Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs, and Water Playgrounds During COVID-19

Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs, and Water Playgrounds During COVID-19

This page is intended for aquatic venue administrators. These venues could include public pools, gym and recreation center operators, hotels, housing complexes, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. More information for those visiting these types of venues can be found on the visitors page.

Scientists don’t yet know if COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters. Make sure your customers and staff members are following safe swimming practices along with physical distancing and everyday preventive actions to protect themselves.

As public aquatic venues open in some areas, CDC offers the following considerations for the safety of those who operate, manage, and use aquatic venues:

  • City or county governments
  • Apartment complexes
  • Membership clubs (for example, gyms)
  • Schools
  • Waterparks
  • Homeowners’ associations

All decisions about implementing these considerations should be made locally, in collaboration with local health officials. Operators of public aquatic venues can consult with local officials to determine if and how to implement these considerations while adjusting them to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local jurisdiction.

Promoting behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19

Public aquatic venues can consider these strategies to encourage healthy hygiene:

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

  • Encourage all staff, patrons, and swimmers to wash their hands often or use sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and cover their coughs and sneezes.


  • Encourage the use of cloth masks covering mouths and noses whenever people are not in the water. Everyone should wear masks as they arrive at the pool, prepare on the deck, and until they get in the water.
  • People should not wear cloth masks in the water as they may be difficult to breathe through when they’re wet.

Staying home

Physical distancing

  • Ensure that the number of swimmers in each lane allows adequate physical distance (at least 6 feet) between swimmers.
  • Monitor swimmers to discourage huddling at the ends of the lanes during practice or while swimming laps.
  • During competition, have swimmers wait at least 6 feet apart behind the starting blocks. Have only one heat behind blocks at a time to eliminate crowding.
  • Note: It may be difficult to hold a full indoor swim meet at this time in the pandemic.

Adequate supplies

  • Ensure you have accessible sinks and enough supplies for people to clean their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes. Supplies include soap, a way to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer), tissues, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (for staff and older children who can safely use hand sanitizer), and no-touch/foot pedal trash cans (preferably covered).

Signs and messages

Maintaining healthy environments

Operators of public aquatic venues can take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 by maintaining a healthy environment.

Cleaning and disinfection

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects before and after each time they are used. For example: handrails, slides, and structures for climbing or playing; lounge chairs, tabletops, pool noodles, and kickboards; and door handles and surfaces of restrooms, handwashing stations, diaper-changing stations, and showers
  • Consult with the company or engineer that designed the aquatic venue to decide which List N disinfectants approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyexternal icon (EPA) are best for your aquatic venue.
  • Set up a system so that furniture (for example, lounge chairs) that needs to be cleaned and disinfected is kept separate from already cleaned and disinfected furniture.
  • Label containers for used equipment that has not yet been cleaned and disinfected and containers for cleaned and disinfected equipment.
  • Launder towels and clothing according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the warmest appropriate water temperature and dry items completely.
  • Protect shared furniture, equipment, towels, and clothing that have been cleaned and disinfected from becoming contaminated before use by storing in a protected area.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of disinfectants, including storing products securely away from children.


  • Ensure that ventilation systems of indoor spaces operate properly. Increase air turnover or outside air exchange before activities or competition.
  • Increase introduction and circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods. However, do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to staff, patrons, or swimmers.
  • If portable ventilation equipment like fans are used, take steps to minimize air blowing from one person directly at another person to reduce the potential spread of any airborne or aerosolized viruses. Fans should be used to push air outside, not across the room.

Water systems

  • Take steps to ensure that all water systems (for example, drinking fountains, decorative fountains, and hot tubs) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with water.

Modified layouts

  • Change deck layouts to ensure that in the standing and seating areas, individuals can remain at least 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with.

Physical barriers and guides

  • Ensure staff, patrons, and swimmers stay at least 6 feet apart from those they don’t live with, both in and out of the water. Provide physical cues or guides, such as lane lines in the water or chairs and tables on the deck, and signs.

Communal spaces

  • Stagger use of communal spaces (for example, in the water or breakroom), if possible, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and shared objects before and after each time they are used.
  • Discourage activities, such as eating, on dry land or in communal spaces that require removal of masks.

Shared objects

  • Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize, or disinfect or that are meant to come in contact with the face (for example, goggles, nose clips, and snorkels).
  • Discourage the sharing of items such as food, equipment, toys, and supplies with those they don’t live with.
  • Ensure adequate equipment for patrons and swimmers, such as kick boards and pool noodles, to minimize sharing to the extent possible, or limit use of equipment by one group of users at a time and clean and disinfect before and after use.

Maintaining healthy operations

To maintain healthy operations, operators of public aquatic venues may consider:

Protections for vulnerable staff

  • Offer options such as telework or modified job responsibilities that reduce their risk of getting infected.
  • Limit aquatic venue use to only staff, patrons, and swimmers who live in the local area, if feasible.

Lifeguards and water safety

  • Ensure that lifeguards who are actively lifeguarding are not also expected to monitor handwashing, use of masks, or physical distancing of others. Assign this monitoring responsibility to another staff member.

Alterations of public aquatic venues

  • Consult the company or engineer that designed the aquatic venue before altering aquatic features (for example, slides and structures designed for climbing or playing).

Regulatory awareness

  • Be aware of local or state regulatory agency policies on gathering requirements or recommendations to determine if events, such as aquatic fitness classes, swim lessons, swim team practice, swim meets, or pool parties, can be held.

Staggered or rotated shifts

  • Stagger or rotate shifts to limit the number of staff present at the aquatic venue at the same time.

Designated COVID-19 point of contact

  • Designate a staff member to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All staff should know who this person is and how to contact him or her.


  • It’s important to note that safely hosting a large event, including swim meets and competitions, in areas where there are high levels of COVID-19 within the community will be challenging. Consult with your state and local health officials to discuss the particular situation in your community before considering holding such an event and make sure you are following limits on gathering sizes.
  • Avoid group events, gatherings, or meetings both in and out of the water if physical distancing of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live together cannot be maintained. Exceptions to the physical distancing guidance include:
    • Anyone rescuing a distressed swimmer, providing first aid, or performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, with or without an automated external defibrillator.
    • Individuals in the process of evacuating an aquatic venue or entire facility due to an emergency.
  • If planned events must be conducted, stagger drop-off and pick-up times, as much as possible, to maintain distance of at least 6 feet between people who don’t live together.
  • Ask parents to consider if their children are capable of staying at least 6 feet apart from people they don’t live with before taking them to a public aquatic venue.
  • Limit any nonessential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving external groups or organizations.

Communication policies

  • Have staff, patrons, and swimmers self-report after their visit to an aquatic venue if they develop symptoms of COVID-19, get a positive test for COVID-19, or learn they had been exposed to someone with COVID-19 .
  • Notify local health authorities of COVID-19 cases.
  • Notify staff, patrons, and swimmers of aquatic venue closures.

Leave policies

  • Implement sick leave (time off) policies and practices for staff that are flexible and non-punitive.
  • Develop return-to-work policies aligned with CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation.

Back-up staffing plan

  • Monitor absenteeism of staff and create a roster of trained back-up staff.

Staff training

  • Train staff on all safety protocols.
  • Conduct training virtually or ensure that physical distancing and mask use are maintained during in-person training.

Recognize signs and symptoms

  • Conduct daily health checks (for example, temperature screening or symptom checking) of staff. Ensure safe and respectful implementation that is aligned with any applicable privacy laws and regulations.
  • Consider using examples of screening methods in CDC’s General Business FAQs as a guide.

Preparing for when someone gets sick

To prepare for when someone gets sick, operators of public aquatic venues may consider these strategies:

Isolating and transporting those who are sick to their home or a healthcare provider

  • Immediately separate staff, patrons, or swimmers with COVID-19 symptoms (for example, fever, cough, or shortness of breath).
  • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare provider.

Notifying health officials and close contacts

Cleaning and disinfection

  • Close off areas used by a sick person and avoid using the areas until after cleaning and disinfecting them.
  • Wait more than 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting these areas. Ensure safe and correct use and storage of EPA-approved List N disinfectantsexternal icon, including storing products securely away from children.
Other Resources
Lakes, oceans, and other recreational water

There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters. Follow safe swimming practices along with physical distancing and everyday preventative actions to protect yourself.

CDC COVID-19 Resources

Other CDC Resources