CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus risk: Is it safe to swim at public beaches?

Avoid crowds, consider wading rather than swimming

Beachgoers sunbathe and swim at Lake Macbride Beach in Solon on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Beachgoers sunbathe and swim at Lake Macbride Beach in Solon on Tuesday, June 2, 2020. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Iowa’s public beaches are open, but public health officials warn swimmers and sunbathers to take precautions because of COVID-19.

Although there is less risk of contracting the coronavirus outdoors, a packed beach of people not wearing masks could be potentially dangerous, said Dustin Hinrichs, supervisor for environmental quality for Linn County Public Health.

“If you are going to the beach and you see a large gathering of individuals, I would recommend trying to find another area where there are less folks gathered,” he said.

COVID-19 is spread through tiny droplets of spit or mucus from coughing or sneezing. There isn’t strong evidence swimming in water with someone else who has the virus means you will get it — even in lakes or rivers without chlorine — because of the dilution of droplets that might come from a sick person.

Ultraviolet rays from the sun also kill some pathogens in the water, Hinrichs said.

“Having said that, water certainly could be a vector for transmitting COVID-19,” he said. “It’s not the wisest decision to consume water (while swimming) and it’s also a concern getting it in your eyes.”.

People should wear goggles and consider wading instead of putting their heads underwater, Hinrichs said. He also recommends if you can’t stay six feet away from non-related people on the beach, wear a mask to reduce risk.

Comments: (319) 339-3157; erin.jordan@thegazette.com

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