Arizona worried about a spike in drownings due to COVID-19

news interview

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5)

  • The first triple digits of the year are expected to hit Sunday.
  • The record-breaking heat for this time of year might have many Arizonans want to jump in the pool to cool off.
  • 22-year-old boy drowns in Gilbert pool
  • 2-year-old boy drowns in Gilbert pool

A 2-year-old boy was pulled from a pool in Gilbert after he was underwater for five minutes, according to the Gilbert Fire and Rescue Department. 

According to the Children's Safety Zone, so far this year, seven people have died from water-related incidents in Arizona.

The statistics include five adults and two children, under the age of 6.

"The leading cause of unintentional death in ages of 1-4 is drowning. Most families who've lost in that age range say I didn't know until I lost my child and did my research, I just didn't know," explained Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona (DPCA) board president Melissa Sutton. "So if your child is that age, they really really need to be paying attention."

However, there's an added safety concern and challenge this year compared to previous years because of the coronavirus.

"The drowning prevention and water safety community are very concerned that we will see a spike in drownings this year due to parents working from home, distracted, while children are also at home due to the school closures from COVID-19," said Sutton.

She added, the opportunities for summer swim lessons have been canceled or postponed because of COVID-19. Many city and private swim school pools are closed until further notice due to the pandemic.

That leaves parents the responsibility of teaching their kids water safety and learning how to swim.

Sutton said the first lesson kids should learn is never go near the pool or a body of water without an adult.

If you haven't done so already, now is the time to check if pool gates are working and alarms are installed and working properly on sliding glass doors.

"The DPCA encourages putting as many layers in place as possible to slow down or stop a child's access to the pool. Layers consist of placing high locks on all doors and locking the doggy door that accesses the pool area. Alarms on doors and windows help alert that parent who might be distracted with work, so those are helpful now more than even. Ensuring isolation pool fences are installed and in proper working order will help mitigate the risk as well. Unfortunately, with swim lessons being cancelled at this time, it's important to take an online CPR class, with breaths, in case there is an aquatic accident and the child hasn't been taught to save themselves yet."

She explained many of the drownings happen during times families were not planning on going swimming.

Sutton stressed the importance of adult supervision and understanding clearly what that means. She suggests it's a good rule of thumb for parents or a designated "water watcher" to at least sit at the edge of the pool with their feet in the water, so they're close in case a child slips under water and can't get back up on their own.

"Parents should not be on their phones, they should not be reading a book, they should not be having conversations with other adults. They should solely be focused, dedicated eyes on the water on the kids scanning the top of the water and the bottom of the water because we know drowning is silent and as soon as a child goes under, unless they're spotted, they have only a few seconds before bad things start to happen," she explained.

"A child can slip under in a matter of four or five seconds," said Sutton. 

"As soon as they can't get back to the surface, you're talking about potentially 30 seconds to a minute they go unconscious and that's when their bran starts to shut down. After four minutes, they're considered brain dead and the chances of the having a recovery is not very good."

According to Sutton, Arizona consistently ranks top four in the nation for drownings behind coastline states like California, Florida, and Texas.

Tips to teach your children about the ABC's of water safety: 

  • A: Adult supervision
  • B: Barrier
  • C: Classes

admin

Swimming, SKWIM and Water Polo Coach in Pittsburgh, PA, USA, as well as a webmaster with CLOH.org, Rauterkus.com, 4Rs.org, and the International Swim Coaches Association, SwimISCA.org.

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