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With precautions, the swimming pool can be a safe place to relax this summer

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the water itself is pretty safe. It is surrounding yourself with other people that creates a higher risk.

Posted Updated

Joe Fisher
, WRAL reporter
The summer heat forecast for the Fourth of July holiday weekend could attract more people to neighborhood and public swimming pools. With the coronavirus pandemic persisting, it's important to take precautions in any group situation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the water itself is pretty safe. It is surrounding yourself with other people that creates a higher risk.

There is no need to wear a face covering in the water, but it should be worn walking on the deck, to and from the car or in a public bathroom.

Wake County has given notice to all pool operators that they must comply with Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order, which requires those over the age of 11 to cover their faces in public places. Ultimately, the responsibility to follow those guidelines falls to the individual.

At Biltmore Hills pool in southeast Raleigh, there are markings and signs to help keep swimmers separated.

“We are making it as safe as we can make it,” said Laury Holley, seasonal pools supervisor for the City of Raleigh.

There are seven public pools opening across the city on July 6. At each, visitors will find reduced capacity, temperature checks, a face covering requirement and enhanced cleaning in between two-hour swim sessions.

“We have staff designated throughout the day to go around and spot clean. They will be taking care of that while we are open and then we’ll be having some times of closure,” Holley said.

Through Thursday, 982 pools had passed an opening inspection in Wake County. That’s 78% of the county’s 1,256 pools, down from 90% inspected by this time last year.

“Some chose to get an inspection. Some were waiting to see if they could open at all this year," said Jessica Sanders, county recreational sanitation manager, who leads a team of 60 inspectors who do those safety checks.

While a pool owner is responsible for enforcing distancing rules and the mask mandate, Sanders says everyone has a role to play.

“It’s not just the operators that are needing to maintain the pool with the proper disinfectant levels to keep it safe, the users also have a role as well to not swim when they are sick,” she said.

The CDC says COVID-19 does not spread through the water, and while exposure to sunlight reduces the time the virus survives on surfaces, the sun does not immediately kill the virus.

Swimmers should also be careful with surfaces like ladders and patio furniture and should wash hands thoroughly and frequently.

Still, state health officials say pools and beaches are lower-risk activities if users take the proper precautions.

“I feel like, with what we are doing, people can come and just kind of relax and enjoy themselves,” Holley said.

Some homeowners associations are joining the City of Durham in choosing to keep pools closed this season because of the restrictions and increased cost of cleaning.

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