What’s your risk for COVID-19 in the water?
Swimming pools are being opened and the warmer temperatures are making it more likely you'll want to visit a body of water for relief.
There's still plenty to learn about how well COVID-19 can survive in natural aquatic environments, but the conditions suggest risk of transmission would be fairly low. The biggest threat to your health and safety in lakes, rivers and the ocean, according to experts, is the same as it's been elsewhere — close contact with other human beings who could be carriers of the disease.
"The probability that you will contract (COVID-19) from the water bodies themselves is significantly lower ... than you getting it from someone or other people that are at that particular place, if you're not maintaining proper distancing," said Kay Bidle, a professor and microbial oceanographer in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.
While salt water, high levels of sunlight and higher temperatures may be able to limit the stability of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, Bidle said, even a modest wind can spread airborne viruses much more widely than what would happen on a calm day or indoors.
Wind, though can dilute any infectious particles. It's believed freshwater and saltwater bodies likely dilute the virus enough as well.
Coronaviruses have been shown to remain viable in freshwater bodies but there's been no evidence of individuals getting ill because of exposure.
"Safely enjoying lakes, parks and beaches is possible but social distancing measures are still critical," Bidle said.
Beaches in New Jersey were granted the green light to open to the public ahead of Memorial Day, but with restrictions in place in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday said youth day camps can open their doors to guests starting July 6.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds. The CDC said proper operation and disinfection of these sites should kill the virus that causes COVID-19.
Still, the agency encourages healthy hygiene practices. Swimming pools and surrounding areas can feature many frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, slides, lounge chairs and door handles.
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