Swimming, both recreational and competitive, has taken a heavy hit during the long pandemic. However, USA Swimming is trying to turn that around and get people back into the water.
Swimmers want to be out with other swimmers, competing, racing down pool lanes, perhaps only inches away from other swimmers. With COVID have been major changes, from much better indoor ventilation in pools to social distancing, although no masks in the water.
Pool safety was the topic of a webinar Thursday sponsored by USA Swimming.
Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins and an Olympic silver medalist in swimming, said the sports field has to prove to regulators, health experts and families that it can be safe to swim.
"It’s critical that teams demonstrate they safely maintain those requirements on all aspects of what’s going on there," she said. "It’s not just checking a box, right? Its actually internalizing those rules and say, here’s what we’re doing, and the coaches actually spread it and the swimmers actually believe it and translate it to more places than just on the pool deck."
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Ryan Murphy talked about safety work at the University of California-Berkeley.
"Throughout this entire process, Cal has continued to learn what we can and cannot do and I think they have been very, very cautious," he said, "and luckily, we’ve had zero cases throughout this entire time within the Cal men’s swimming team. And I think that’s a testament to a lot of the protocols we’ve been following."
During the webinar, participants said there is no known COVID case among competitive swimmers. However, it was pointed out several times that all the effort in the pool and on that deck to prevent spread of the virus can be vitiated by what happens out in the parking lot.
With summer in the distance, there is also concern about outdoor pools. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Swimming Program Chief Michelle Hlavsa said there are good signs.
"Based on what we know about, like the SARS COVID-2 viruses, is at the chlorine levels that CDC recommends for pools and that state and local health departments typically mandate or require for pools, the virus should not be transmitted," Hlavsa said. "Regardless of that, we are not aware of any scientific reports of the virus being transmitted through the water we swim in."