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Reopening Pools with Social Distancing

This page provides considerations for authorities having jurisdiction and property managers when preparing to reopen pools with social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Social distancing

With the arrival of the summer season, many communities are hoping to enjoy some time in the pool. Considerations for Public Pools, Hot Tubs and Water Playgrounds During COVID-19 is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for guidelines on how to safety do so.

The CDC recommends that staff, patrons and swimmers stay at least 6 feet apart from those they do not live with. Some jurisdictions have also included capacity restrictions, which has resulted in confusion about how to determine the number of people allowed to use the pool.

Types of pools and methods for calculating capacity

To determine the number of people permitted at a pool, load factors are typically expressed as an area occupied by each person in a building or occupancy type. However, the approach can vary depending on whether the pool is indoors or outdoors, the depth of the pool, local ordinances and other factors.

Some pools, for instance, were designed assuming 50 square feet per person in the pool itself and 15 square feet per person on the deck surrounding the pool. Another approach assumes factors based on the depth and area of the pool, typically 12 to 300 square feet per person, and might be independent of the deck area.

For example, an outdoor pool with a 4-foot-deep swimming area of 3,000 square feet, a deck area of 3,000 square feet and no diving area, using 12 square feet per person, results in a capacity of 250 people. If a 50% capacity restriction is imposed due to COVID-19, the capacity is reduced to 125 people.

Similarly, assuming 36 square feet per person based on the CDC's 6-foot social distancing criteria represents another form of capacity reduction but should be compared to the other approaches discussed above.

Key takeaways

  • The CDC recommends maintaining 6 feet of separation in the pool as well as on the deck or seating areas. This means that seats and lounge furniture should be spaced 6 feet from each other, and the space occupied by the furniture should be accounted for.
  • Translating the 6-foot social distancing guidance into an area of 36 square feet per person assumes that each person remains centered in the area and should take into consideration any other features or requirements that might apply to a facility or property.
  • The requirements and approach can vary based on local ordinances.

Other factors to consider

  • The number, placement and capacity of exits is based on more than just occupant load. Emergency exits must be designed and maintained to accommodate the total capacity of the facility.
  • Some temporary measures taken to control crowds or occupant flows can impact how well the means of egress serve occupants in an emergency.

See also: Ingress and egress concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic