Well, here we are. The COVID-19 pandemic has become our reality, and there’s no end in sight. But the situation in our country has also changed considerably since we first started Googling the word “coronavirus” all that time ago. Now all adults and children over the age of five have access to free vaccines. We know more than ever about how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. And our freedom to congregate safely has gotten a little better.
Unfortunately, the virus has been changing, too. The Delta variant became the most common strain of COVID-19. And as of November of 2021, the Omicron variant emerged.
There are many questions still unanswered about how the Omicron variant differs from the other COVID-19 variants that have sprung up and circulated around the globe. However, all findings point to the fact that as long as a swimming pool is safely sanitized, the Omicron variant is unlikely to spread through its water.
I’ll explain what we know about the Omicron variant and COVID-19 as a whole so far, explore how the variant spreads, and break down the safety of swimming in your own or a public pool during the Omicron COVID-19 outbreak.
This is a matter of safety, so let’s get straight to the experts.
The Basics of Omicron and COVID-19, Thanks to the Experts
For all facts that I state, I’ll be sourcing the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). I’m a pool expert, and I’m not going to pretend to be a epidemiologist, because that’s how false information starts in the first place. I’ll be quoting the experts in thier own words (in other words, I’m staying out of the way!).
The Omicron variant first emerged in late November, 2021. Here’s what the CDC has to say:
“On November 26, 2021, WHO named the B.1.1.529 Omicron and classified it as a Variant of Concern (VOC). On November 30, 2021, the United States designated Omicron as a Variant of Concern, and on December 1, 2021 the first confirmed U.S. case of Omicron was identified.” (Source.)
This is two years after the first case of COVID-19 was detected, and with the help of vaccines, the situation around the current Omicron variant is looking very different from the original outbreak of the virus.
Basically, vaccines are estimated to continue to protect from severe illness due to the Omicron variant. Again, that’s according to the CDC:
“Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death.” (Source.)
This variant is new. But what we know by now is that vaccines and boosters are still effective against the worst of it.
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COVID-19, its Omicron Variant, and Contagious Spread
Part of how the Omicron variant differs from the original COVID-19 virus is how easily it spreads. Here’s what (unfortunately) the CDC has to say about how the Omicron variant spreads:
“The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.” (Source.)
So the Omicron variant is expects to spread more easily, but we’re not sure yet if it’s more contagious than the Delta variant. A bummer for sure, but again, vaccines and boosters do protect against severe illness caused by the Omicron variant. That’s the silver lining to focus on.
There’s also another thing you can do: stay as safe as possible! To protect yourself, the CDC advises getting an authorized COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask in indoor public spaces, staying six feet away from others outside your home, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces, utilizing tests, washing your hands often, covering coughs, cleaning high-touch surfaces, and monitoring your health for possible symptoms. (Source.)
It’s Important to Be Physically Active while Social Distancing, Says the CDC
It’s always important to get the right amount of exercise every week, isolation or not. But being physically active has a ton of benefits that can also be helpful during a pandemic. According to the CDC, “Physical activity reduces blood pressure and anxiety and helps you sleep better. It can also help to improve mood and energy level.”
How much physical activity is necessary even changes with age: children from 3 to 5 years need physical activity throughout the day every day, children and adolescents from 6 to 17 years need at least an hour of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity every day, and adults need 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity. (Source.)
Recreation is important for our moods, energy, and all the anxiety of a global pandemic still at our door. But how can we do it in a way that is safe?
Looking to extend the swim season as much as you can, so that you can safely get out and have fun? A heat pump is the answer for you—but you’ll want a powerful unit that will save you on your energy bill every month, like the Energy-Saving ComforTemp Pool Heat Pump 95,000 BTU to heat 18,000 Gallons. According to customer Steve, “Simple install and simple set up. Heated my pool from 66 to 82 degrees in about 2 complete days.”
So Is It Safe to Swim During COVID-19?
The virus spreads from person to person—but not through pool water. According to the CDC, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs.” Full stop.
What about the off-chance that Omicron is a little different? It’s unlikely, as it shares the elemental characteristics of the original COVID-19 virus and its variants.
But to be especially careful, the experts also advise proper sanitation for all swimming pools. According to the CDC, “Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfections (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Beyond COVID-19, this can also prevent other pathogens from taking up residency in your pool—because nobody wants to have a weakened immune system during the pandemic.
Safety… It Depends on Where You’re Swimming
At this phase of the pandemic, it’s all about calculated risk. For most people, it’s no longer about staying at home with a pod of family members except for quick, distanced, and masked-up grocery runs, followed by thorough sanitation of all goods. Our country has opened back up, with a few modifications: spaced out tables, vaccination card checks at the door, easier access to virus testing services.
Your calculated risk differs with a few different factors, including where you swim, and who’s joining you.
In Your Own Pool
Your own pool is the safest place to swim, but that can change depending on the exposure of members of your own household to the virus, as well as visiting guests.
That being said, remember that there’s no evidence COVID-19 transmits in pool or hot tub water. To make sure your sanitation is top-notch, you always want to be sure:
- You’re running your pool pump for the proper amount of time everyday—generally, this is around eight hours.
- Your pool’s cleaning system is in complete working order, meaning you routinely clean the equipment, unclog accumulated debris, and troubleshoot if your pump goes awry or gets its own high temperature.
- Most importantly: you’re properly sanitizing and disinfecting your pool (Source: CDC.
Remember, the Omicron variant speads more easily than the original COVID-19 virus, and it does so through the air. You can still contract the virus from your fellow swimmers if you’re not properly distanced.
In Other Pools
Public pools and the pools of your friends are a little more risky, because you can’t be sure how well the water is maintained, and there’s a higher chance of crowding.
If you’re planning on swimming in a pool that isn’t your own, make sure you’ll be able to maintain some social distance, especially if the pool is indoors. You can also bring water test strips from home to check the sanitation levels of the water.
Remember, if you smell chemicals—even if you think it might be chlorine—chances are, the pool in question has a maintenance problem. (Source: CDC.)
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What if a Member of My Household Gets Sick?
Most people with COVID-19 can recover at home, and according to the CDC, anyone infected should only leave the house to get medical care.
- If possible, use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Provide your sick household member with clean, disposable face masks to wear at home, if available.
- Clean the sick room and bathroom, as needed, to avoid unnecessary contact with the sick person.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as utensils, food, and drinks.
You can go swimming, but your sick family member should not. Nobody should swim when they’re fighting a virus—especially in the company of others.
Why not? First of all, note that respiratory droplets can likely pass from person to person above pool water. If your family member has or thinks they might have COVID-19, they could pass it on to you or anyone else in the pool—through the air, not water.
Secondly, anyone who is sick should be resting. It’s as simple as that. This is a serious and sometimes fatal disease, and everyone who has it should be giving their body the strength it needs to fight it off. (Source: CDC.)
Just Keep Swimming!
These are tough, stressful times, and they don’t seem to be going away any time soon. Thankfully, the calculated risk of swimming is low, since there is no evidence that COVID-19 or its newest variant Omicron can spread through water. Don’t forget: be careful about what happens above the surface. Be safe. And… relax. See you at the pool.