This summer, drowning, not Covid-19 is a bigger risk for children

Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4.  With summer here and pools closed, children are unable to learn to swim in Oregon. The lack of available swimming lessons could lead to the dire consequence of a spike in childhood drownings this summer.   SWIMBABES has joined with 5 other swimming schools in Oregon to voice our concern during the shut down of all pools in Oregon.  We believe all swimming lessons should be available and essential to Oregon children, and available to families now.  Children need to be in swimming lessons as an essential part of their safety education.  SWIMBABES has worked tirelessly for over 79 years spreading the message of water safety for children.  We have taught thousands of children to survive in water and have had numerous self rescue stories, including just a few that you can see in our blog.   We work with many families who live on lakes, rivers and ponds or have back yard pools and water features.  These bodies of water don’t go away during a pandemic.  Now that Oregon has flattened the curve, it is imperative children get back to swimming lessons!

We believe drowning to be at an even higher risk now as the schools, daycares and other children’s activities are currently closed. This gives children more time to find a body of water such as a backyard pool, neighbor’s pool, community pool, inflatable pool, sink, toilet, filled bathtub, bucket, ditches filled with rainwater, ocean, lakes, ponds and rivers. A young child can drown in less than 2 inches of water.

Meanwhile, parents have even more distractions than ever, including remote working while children are home and are unable to supervise their children at all times. Even before this pandemic, 9 out of 10 child related drowning deaths happened when a caregiver was supervising.  69% of children who drowned were not expected to be at or in the pool, yet they were found in the water and 77% of drowning victims had been out of sight for less than five minutes.

Private swim schools across the country educate over 250,000 children per week to learn to swim and Oregon is estimated to teach 10,000 children in private swimming schools and private lessons at any given time.  The National Institute of Health studies show that there is an 88% reduction in risk in the drowning for children enrolled in formal swimming lessons.  In addition, private swimming schools are highly controlled areas where we can limit the numbers of children and contacts within any given time period.  While an instructor needs to stay within arms length from a nonswimmer, we are committed to taking concrete steps to ensure social distancing within all other aspects of our facilities.

There is no way to teach water survival or swim skills remotely, and the health risk from COVID-19 in instructional swim settings should be very low. According to the CDC, the chlorine/bromine in our swimming pools should inactivate the virus in the water . Chlorine/bromine is a disinfectant. There is no evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be spread to people through the water in pools.  The industry is working to establish best practices, and we are willing to engage in a science-based dialogue with health officials regarding which measures would be appropriate for learn-to-swim programs.

We call on everyone to spread the message that children need to learn to swim this summer and pools need to be re opened!

 Oregon Swim School Industry Letter to Governor Brown_Posted_4-29-2020.