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Are Missouri’s public swimming pools safe to use during COVID-19 outbreak?

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FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, U.S. health regulators OK’d the first coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home, a new approach that could help expand testing options in most states. The sample will still have to be shipped for processing back to LabCorp, which operates diagnostic labs throughout the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

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(Missourinet)– Some Missouri families might be thinking about skipping trips to the public swimming pool this summer since the coronavirus continues to make waves. The CDC’s new guidelines for public swimming pools say parents should consider whether their children can stay six feet away from people they don’t live with and, if not, don’t take the kids to the pool.

Chezney Schulte, the communicable disease coordinator for the Cole County Health Department, says if people are practicing social distance and pools are properly maintained, the chances of getting the virus are low.

“It is eyes, nose and mouth transfer of droplets from an infected person. So, certainly that could occur in the pool if you’re coughing or sneezing or sputtering on someone that’s close by. But as far as the virus living in the pool, that’s not thought to be a readily mode of transmission from person to person,” she says. “It’s understood that just because of the chemical balance in the pool water, if those are maintained properly, that that would not be a high-risk environment for transmission of the virus. And so, it really is just maintaining that physical distance from others.”

Missouri does not have capacity limits for public swimming pools but some cities and counties might have stricter rules to follow.

Schulte also encourages pools to disinfect frequently-used surfaces between use or often, including concession areas, pool chairs and tables.

“It’s highly beneficial to get our kids and our families back active, especially in these outdoor environments and things like that in the summer heat but it’s good to just understand what you can do at an individual level to decrease your risk no matter what activity you might be involved in,” says Schulte.

The Lake of the Ozarks has been making national headlines for pictures and a video showing an unidentified business with people crowded into the pool and bar area over the weekend. Schulte says simple precautions go a long way in the fight against the coronavirus.

“A crowded environment at a pool or interacting with people outside your family group, people you might not know their health status of or anything like that, that becomes a more high-risk activity. So, you have so much of the control there of your risk of exposure to COVID-19,” says Schulte.

Local health departments are in charge of enforcing the statewide requirements.

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