CALL 713.222.TIPS (8477)

With COVID 19 in the Air, Drownings may Increase

Written by Dr. Tom and Rachel Griffiths


Many parents probably believe with COVID 19 among us and many municipal swimming pools in the country either opening late or not at all this summer, there will be a decrease in drowning deaths this year.  However, Water Safety Professionals around the country have a much different opinion; they believe we will see an increase in drowning rates this summer due to COVID-19.  Why?  As evidenced already in some counties in Florida, because children are at home all day with schools closed and parents distracted while working from home, young children have more opportunities to slip into backyard swimming pools undetected.  With many public pools closed, when the weather gets hot, older youths may seek to swim in open-water ponds, streams, and lakes, without the watchful eyes of lifeguards on duty.  With fewer swim lessons offered, young non-swimmers may be unable to learn how to swim this summer to become safer around the water.

When it comes to residential swimming pools, a four-sided isolation fence, whereby the backside of the house cannot serve as one side of the protective barrier, is the best way to keep toddlers and young children out of the water.  Look into technology – there are a variety of pool alarms that can be installed in the pool or worn by the child that will alert adults inside when someone enters the swimming pool unnoticed.  The entrance to the pool should be a self-closing, self-latching gate that is at least five feet high.  Designate a Water Watcher whose sole responsibility it is to watch the kids in the water.  Even if you do not have a pool, be aware if any of your neighbors, child’s friends, or family friends do.  Children can slip into the water in unexpected places, especially when you do not have your own pool so it may not be at the forefront of your mind.  If traveling, also be aware of any pools at vacation homes, hotel/motels, or other locations you visit and safeguard your child around the pool, making sure they are unable to access the pool area during non-swim times.  If you or someone you know has a residential swimming pool, now is a good time to add these effective Layers of Protection to prevent drowning.

Warn and educate your children about swimming with a lifeguard on duty, and insist on this vitally important safety requirement.  Having said that, if you take your kids to a guarded facility, put down your phone and any other handheld devices you may be carrying and watch your kids vigilantly!  Just because a lifeguard is on duty and he or she looks like they are watching the water, there is no guarantee they are watching your kid.  Whatever you do, if your child is invited to a pool party, do not send them alone.  Go to the pool party with your child for their safety and your own piece of mind.  If you child is a weak or non-swimmer, place them in a properly fitting US Coast Guard Approved Life Jacket.  It is important to understand more than 50% of all drowning deaths in this country occur during group functions at aquatic facilities.  In addition, we have yet to learn of a single swimming pool drowning of a child in this country while wearing a properly-fitting US coast Guard Approved Life Jacket.

For every child who dies of drowning in this country, another five non-fatal drownings occur, often with long lasting physiological, psychological, and emotional catastrophic affects (cite the CDC?).  Tragically, these non-fatal drowning events can be just as devastating to families and friends as fatal drownings.

Drowning prevention tips include:
– Swim lessons, early and often.

– US Coast Guard Approved Lifejackets in ALL bodies of water for weak and non-swimmers, all the time.  All swimmers, regardless of swimming ability, need life jackets in the open-water.

– Swim near a lifeguard.

– Supervise your child around the water without distractions.

– Designate a Water Watcher, dedicated to watching the kids in the water.

– Isolate your swimming pool with four-sided fencing and a self-closing, self-latching gate that is at least 48” tall (consult your local jurisdiction for specific requirements).

– Utilize technology to help safeguard children, including alarms and wearable drowning detection

– Learn CPR and learn to swim if you are not confident in the water.


Aquatic Safety Research Group, LLC: www.aquaticsafetygroup.com 

National Drowning Prevention Alliance: https://ndpa.org/ 

American Red Cross:  https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/index.html 

Pool Safely: https://www.poolsafely.gov/ 


Posted by on 29 May 2020