COVID-19 and Public Pools and Beaches

Public aquatic venues can be owned or operated by

  • Apartment complexes
  • Homeowners’ associations
  • Hotels and motels
  • Membership clubs (for example, gyms)
  • Schools
  • Waterparks
  • Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial governments

There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through swimming pools, hot tubs, splash pads, or fresh and marine water (such as water in lakes, rivers, ponds, and oceans). Proper operation and maintenance (including disinfection with chlorine or bromine) of these facilities should inactivate the virus in the water.

Owners and operators of public pools, hot tubs, splash pads, and fresh and marine beaches should continue to follow federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial guidance and work with local health officials.

Steps Operators and Managers of Public Aquatic Venues Can Take to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

  1. Promote behaviors that reduce spread
    • Encourage COVID-19 vaccination among your staff. Staying up to date with vaccines gives lifeguards the best available protection against COVID-19. Performing rescues, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or first aid means lifeguards can’t always wear masks and keep at least 6 feet (or a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle) apart from others.
    • Post COVID-19 prevention signs in highly visible locations around the aquatic venue and disseminate messages (for example, through the facility’s website and social media posts).

      Ensure that lifeguards who are actively lifeguarding are not also expected to monitor whether people are wearing masks and physically distancing. Assign monitoring duties to staff who are not actively lifeguarding.

    • Educate staff and visitors about when they should stay home (if exposed to the virus) or isolate (if infected with the virus) and when they can return and be around others.
    • Discourage sharing of items used on the face (such as goggles, nose clips, and snorkels) among people who don’t live together.
  2. Encourage staff and visitors to wear a mask out of the water.
    • Tell staff and visitors not to wear masks in the water. Wet masks can make it difficult to breathe and likely will not work as well as dry masks. Since you cannot wear a mask when in the water, it is particularly important when swimming or playing in the water to stay at least 6 feet (or a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle) apart from others.
    • Encourage people to use masks indoors, except when in the water.
    • Encourage visitors to bring extra masks in case the ones they are wearing get wet. Extra masks can be stored in zipper lock plastic bags to help keep them dry.
    • Consider having masks available for people who forget their masks or need to replace wet masks.
    • Remind staff and visitors that goggles, SCUBA masks, and other such masks should not be used to protect against COVID-19.
  3. Encourage physical distancing.
    • Encourage staff and visitors to stay at least 6 feet apart (a few inches more than a typical pool noodle) when in or out of the water.

      Exceptions include the need to:

      • Rescue a distressed swimmer, perform CPR, or give first aid and
      • Evacuate the water or the entire beach or facility because of an emergency.
    • Provide physical barriers and guides (such as tables, chairs, and umbrellas on the deck or in the sand) and visual cues (such as posted signs, tape, or decals on floors or sidewalks) to encourage people to stay at least 6 feet (or a few inches longer than a typical pool noodle) apart from others. For pools, lane lines can be used in the water.
    • Stagger use of shared spaces (such as limiting the number of people in the water and potentially enclosed spaces such as bathrooms, locker rooms, and breakrooms).
    • Consult with local health officials before holding an event (such as swim meets, other sports competitions, or pool or beach parties) and comply with limits on gathering sizes.
  4. Improve air ventilation in indoor aquatic spaces.

    Along with other prevention steps, proper ventilation can reduce the concentration of virus particles in the air. To improve air ventilation in indoor aquatic spaces, consider the following steps:

    • Ensure indoor air handling system for aquatic spaces is operating properly and providing acceptable indoor air quality for each space. Ensure restroom exhaust fans are functional and operating at full capacity when the building is occupied.
    • Adjust heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system outdoor air dampers to bring in as much outdoor air as possible while maintaining acceptable temperature and humidity control.
    • Consider other steps to bring in and circulate as much outdoor air as possible, including changing the air handling system’s time clock to introduce code ventilation 24 hours per day (no off cycle).
    • Improve central air filtration:
      • Increase air filtration to a MERV-13 or as high as possible without substantially reducing airflow.
      • Ensure filters are installed correctly and are within their recommended service life.
      • Inspect filter housing and racks to ensure appropriate filter fit and minimize filter bypass.
      • Verify proper airflow through the air handler after upgraded filter installation.
    • If the air handling system has a purge mode, consider running a purge sequence starting 3 hours before the event (for example, swim meets, other sports competitions, or pool or beach parties).
      • Turn the system back to normal ventilation 1 hour before the event to allow the environment to become stable. Run the purge mode again for 2 hours after the event.
    • Consider using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) as a supplement to help inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19, especially if options for increasing the delivery of clean air are limited. In-duct UVGI systems can help enhance air cleaning inside central ventilation systems.
      • Consult with a reputable UVGI manufacturer or an experienced UVGI system designer prior to installing these systems. These professionals can assist by doing necessary calculations, making fixture selections, properly installing the system, and testing for proper operation specific to the setting.
Page last reviewed: January 27, 2022