This past summer, some of our favorite destinations — beaches, pools, splash pads, and water parks — were closed, at least temporarily, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a result, many kids missed out on a full season of swim fun and, perhaps more important, critical swim-learning time.
Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics have cited concerns over higher risk of drownings related to the pandemic, whether due to caregivers who are tasked with doing more than ever, or kids who have increased access to bathtubs, pools, or other sources of water at home. One key layer of protection is strong swimming skills.
As the weather cools and families look for worry-free recreation outside of the home, the indoor pools at Life Time can offer a safe space for children to experience the fun of the water, as well as gain important swimming abilities.
We asked Jen Rezac, director of swim programming for Life Time Aquatics, to answer some common questions she’s receiving from members who are considering bringing their families back to the pool areas of our clubs.
What does the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say about the safe use of pools?
According to the CDC, “There is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters.” The organization also states: “Swimming and other water-related activities are excellent ways to get in physical activity and health benefits needed for a healthy life.”
What is Life Time doing to ensure its pools are a clean and safe space for swimmers?
Rezac outlines a number of safety and cleanliness measures that include the following:
- We use chlorine chemicals in our pools, which when properly used, “should inactivate the virus,” according to the CDC.
- The chemicals in our pools are tested every four hours to ensure we’re maintaining proper disinfection levels.
- Our HVAC systems have been updated to enhance our air quality, bringing in fresh, outside air into our pool area.
- High-touch surfaces are frequently cleaned and disinfected using an EPA-registered, virus-killing disinfectants. (This is what’s in the spray bottles our staff uses.)
- Pool furniture is set up to allow for proper social distancing.
- Everyone who enters a Life Time club first must have their temperature checked.
- All team members wear shields when in the pool, and masks when out of the pool.
How about the swim programming — what changes has Life Time made so parents can feel confident enrolling their kids in lessons or teams?
We have several different programs available to suit your family’s needs and comfort level, including both group and private swim lessons, as well as our Swim Team. We have also reduced the number of classes being held at one time in order to allow participants to spread out more in the pool.
For group lessons, we are maintaining small instructor-to-swimmer ratios, and keeping children in the same group from week to week. Our group classes are spread out, so there’s at least six feet of separation between groups.
Private lessons are a great option for those who want to minimize exposure to other individuals. These lessons can be set up so it’s only your child or family and an instructor in the water.
Swim Team is also still available, but practice groups are limited to one group at a time, and there is a reduced number of swimmers per lane to allow for social distancing. We’re also offering virtual swim meets to maintain a safe, but still competitive, atmosphere.
If I’m trying to limit my child’s risk factors outside of the home, is swim programming really something that’s important to prioritize?
Yes. Drowning is the number one cause of death for children ages 1 to 4, and a leading cause of death for kids up to age 14. The CDC states that for every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for near drowning. This statistic is tragic because drowning is preventable.
Swim lessons provide an important layer of protection: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that formal swim lessons decreased the risk of drowning for young children by 88 percent.
Parents can also take comfort in the safety of pools and pool areas. The CDC says they are “not aware of any scientific reports of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreading to people through the water in pools, hot tubs, or water playgrounds.” They also state that, “Proper operation of public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds, and disinfection of the water (with chlorine or bromine) should inactivate the virus.”
What happens if someone who had COVID-19 was in the pool while they were infected?
The situation is no different than when you are on land; there would only be concern if you were in close contact with that individual. The CDC has no evidence that the virus can spread through the water when proper chemical levels are maintained.
Is Life Time enforcing capacity limits in the pools?
These rules vary state by state, but in locations where there are government guidelines for capacity, capacities are enforced. Capacity counts are done on a frequent basis and for the entire club, not just the pool area. If your club reaches capacity, you will be notified when checking in. Our aquatics facilities are spacious and typically have a large swimmer load, even at reduced capacity, so there’s usually plenty of space for all.
Where can I find out more about Life Time’s safety efforts, and swim programming and the pool areas at my club?
All of Life Time’s safety and reopening protocols can be found here, including aquatic-specific FAQs. You can learn more about or register for our different swim programming options here, and find pool hours here.