With the weather getting warmer and vaccinations surging, public pools are starting to reopen and a growing number of Americans are making plans to take the plunge this summer. But a new survey finds that swimmers are divided on whether those pools will offer a refreshing respite from the pandemic.
The survey found that 70% of Americans plan to swim in a pool this summer, up from 52% last year. But more swimmers at the pool means greater concern about people spreading COVID-19. Overall, more than half of Americans (52%) worry about COVID-19 at public pools, and among that group, 82% are especially concerned about large crowds at the pool.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through pool water. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
“It’s finally time to get back in the water, as long as we’re practicing socially safe behaviors,” says Rowdy Gaines, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, who is working with the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance to educate swimmers about COVID-19 safety, as well as general health and hygiene information for summer pool visits.
So what should pool operators do to make swimmers feel comfortable this summer? According to the survey, most Americans (57%) want public pools to limit capacity above anything else. Interestingly, vaccination status appears to do little to ease swimmers’ concerns, with 59% of already-vaccinated Americans saying they would still require limited pool capacity to swim in a public pool.
“This summer, as more Americans make plans to swim in pools, it’s important for us to keep safety in mind by maintaining a social distance from others, even in the water and on the pool deck,” says Gaines.
Also, the CDC recommends setting a clear COVID protocol at each establishment, such as determining cleaning procedures, when employees should stay home, and what to do in case of exposure -- and staying updated with the latest CDC guidance on operating public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds during COVID-19.
Finally, pool operators should clearly communicate expectations to swimmers, including any face mask policies, if applicable.
“This summer, Americans are cautiously optimistic about the prospects of swimming safely in pools — at their backyard pool, a public pool, or while vacationing at a resort pool,” says Sabeena Hickman, president and CEO of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. “Together, by following proper safety protocols, we can all enjoy the 2021 swimming pool season.”
Methodology: Sachs Media conducted the 2021 Healthy Pools survey on behalf of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the world’s oldest and largest association representing swimming pool, spa, and hot tub manufacturers, manufacturers’ agents, builders, designers, distributors, suppliers, installers, retailers, and service technicians. The survey interviewed 2,000 American adults online April 9-10, 2021, with the intent to measure perceptions and behaviors related to swimming pools and public health. The survey had a margin of error of +/- 2.2% at the 95% confidence level, and results were nationally representative of American adults in terms of age, race, gender, region, and household income.