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Are surfers safe from the coronavirus? Health Officer says ocean water can be ‘potentially’ infectious

surfers safe coronavirus
Ryan Fish / KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Surfing is still allowed in Santa Barbara County, as long as surfers maintain at least six feet between themselves and others.

That being said, the medical community is still trying to determine if even isolated surfers could be infected with the coronavirus while in the ocean.

The ocean water itself could pose a risk, according to Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

"Obviously, because it's such a new virus, we don't have a lot of research to go by," Ansorg said Monday. "The virus is in the sewage, however, we don't know how long it stays actually infectious... potentially, though, it is."

That means ocean water near streams and drains could carry an extra risk of carrying the virus and being infectious. Run-off into the ocean after rain showers could now also be more harmful.

"Especially in polluted water, I would advise not to surf,” Ansorg said. “We always say: two days after rain, do not go into the ocean water. And at this time, it’s obviously even more important to do that.”

Many surfers are still using the water as an escape from staying at home, and say they are trying to physically distance themselves from others on the water.

“Honestly, I feel pretty safe,” surfer Tyler Larsen said at Leadbetter Beach. “I’d be more worried if I was walking downtown. I think getting out in the water, I’ll be fine.”

“I don’t know if I make the difference between the ocean and everywhere else,” said Ander Vazquez, another surfer at Leadbetter. “I just look at it: outside versus inside.”

Vazquez says he tries to keep his distance from others on the water, but that he still accepts the risks of surfing.

“Obviously, you can be completely safe [from the virus] by just staying inside your entire time,” he said. “But there’s gotta be some trade-off, right? Humans are used to taking chances, especially in America. So, I’m trying to take calculated risks. Try to not get sick, but stay sane and surf.”

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Ryan Fish

Ryan Fish is a reporter, sports anchor and forecaster for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Ryan, click here.

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