Scientists have reassuring news for Outer Cape residents and visitors who are worried about contracting coronavirus from swimming in ponds and in the ocean and Cape Cod Bay. There is no evidence, they say, that the virus is transmitted through the water. The danger at our swimming spots isn’t the water — it’s the crowds.
Henrietta Reilly, a college student from Louisville, Ky., has been coming to Truro with her family for over 20 years. This year, they wondered if they would be able to swim in the two ponds near their home in the Cape Cod National Seashore.
“We usually think of the ponds as so clean,” she said, “but now we’re worried.”
This same concern was voiced at a recent Wellfleet Select Board meeting. Afterwards, Suzanne Grout Thomas, Wellfleet’s beach director, said she would rely on the advice of Hillary Greenberg-Lemos, the town’s health and conservation agent — namely, that there is no science that supports the idea that Covid-19 makes swimming dangerous.
Among many other examples of similar advice, authorities at the University of Colorado schools of medicine and public health report, “The water in lakes and the ocean should be safe since the virus that causes Covid-19 is not transmitted in water. The same concerns about social distancing and hand hygiene apply at lakes and beaches, just like they do at pools or other places where people gather.”
Still, Grout Thomas wondered if there could be a problem in swimming pools, because of their smaller size. But scientists across the country agree that concern has no basis in fact.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there is “no evidence that Covid-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools, hot tubs or water playgrounds. Proper operation and disinfection of pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds should kill the virus that causes Covid-19.”
Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said in a recent interview with National Public Radio, “I don’t believe that bodies of water — swimming pools, lakes or ponds, or the ocean — are major ways that people can contract the virus.”
Dr. Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times, “It would never cross my mind to get Covid-19 from a swimming pool or the ocean.” According to Cannon, it is more important to think about staying away from others at the beach than to fear the water.
That’s why social distancing will remain the rule this summer. “Remember, it’s a respiratory virus that spreads through coughs and sneezes and common-touch surfaces,” Dr. Adalja said.