Accidental drownings a concern as pandemic postponed swimming lessons for some

With an increase in at-home pool installations and the pandemic-related cancellation or delay of youth swimming lessons, some are concerned that the number of accidental drownings could spike. …

In June 2020 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released a report that found child drownings to be the leading cause of unintentional death among children ages 1 to 4 years old. Now, with an increase in at-home pool installations and the pandemic-related cancellation or delay of youth swimming lessons, some are concerned that the number of drownings could increase even further. 

“This summer, we’re going to see a surge in accidental drownings,” Rowdy Gaines, a three-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer who partnered with the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) said in a statement. “As excited as we are about getting back in the water, it’s important that we stay focused on safe pool behaviors. Parents have to keep a close eye on their children 100% of the time, even when lifeguards are nearby.” 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last updated coronavirus guidance for public pools, hot tubs and water playgrounds Feb. 1, and advised that lifeguards actively monitoring swimmers not also be tasked with enforcing social distancing, mask use or other prevention measures. 

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It also has a guide for how to stay safe in the water, which includes making sure everyone has basic swim skills such as floating and treading water, making sure kids wear life jackets in and around natural bodies of water, closer supervision, knowing the signs of distress in a swimmer, knowing how to perform CPR, and keeping children away from pools or hot tubs when they aren’t swimming. 

But with many indoor and public pools reducing the number of lesson options available for first-time swimmers, ensuring everyone has the right skills could be complicated. One private swim instructor in Florida said she’s been inundated with at-home lesson requests in the last several weeks. 

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“We live in Florida and we’re surrounded by water, and it only takes a few seconds for a child to drown,” Allison Clowes previously told WPTV.com. “When it all first started, everybody was kind of in lockdown and I was like, ‘Those babies still need to learn, you know?’ We still have ponds in our backyards and canals and that won’t go away. I just tell people, ‘You never know.’ It happens to the best of parents. It only takes a few seconds.” 

According to the PHTA, which is behind The Step Into Swim Campaign, learning to swim can reduce the risk of drowning by 88% for 1-4-year-olds who take formal swim lessons. PoolSafely.gov also offers tips on how to teach kids how to swim safely, and has apps to help kids learn how to stay safer around pools and water. 

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“We’re all ready to get back outside and enjoy the pool – whether in our backyards, at a public pool, or while vacationing – but safety is still a priority,” Sabeena Hickman, president of PHTA. “Together, but following proper safety protocols, we can all enjoy the 2021 swimming pool season.” 

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