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COVID-19 pandemic leads to spike in child drownings in Texas

Local authorities worry about the Memorial Day weekend as families flock to pools, lakes and beaches.

HOUSTON — Water safety advocates and local authorities want you to be careful around the water this Memorial Day weekend.

Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in kids ages 1-4.

The coronavirus pandemic is making it worse.

"Because of people sheltering in place at home, and kids having greater access to water with supervision changes, kids not being in school, parents and caregivers trying to work from home," says Alissa Magrum of the Texas Drowning Prevention Alliance.

Magrum says child drownings started happening earlier this year because of stay-at-home orders, and now she worries about the upcoming holiday weekend.

"It’s so hot, and people are going to be going to the beaches, getting to the lakes, getting to any kind of water,” she says.

RELATED: Water safety tips: How to keep your child from drowning

In Galveston, Beach Patrol Chief Peter Davis says they’ve had three drownings in the past few days as more and more people head to the water.

"When the governor opened the beaches, he opened the floodgates, so we went from having almost no one out here to literally 250,000 people," Davis says.

Davis says monitoring social distancing on the beach is one thing, but the number one priority remains drowning prevention, especially with the semi-rough water conditions he’s expecting this weekend.

"Eighty percent of lifeguard rescues around the country and here in Galveston are a direct result of rip currents," Davis says.

He says rip currents happen a lot near structures that stick out into the water, like piers and jetties.

Davis says you need to avoid those. He has a number of safety tips.

  • You should not swim alone.
  • Never leave a child unattended in or near the water.
  • Swim near a lifeguard.

Meanwhile, the city of Houston is not opening its public pools for now, and is not offering free swimming lessons as it has in the past because of the pandemic.

But if you want to pay for swimming lessons, they are being offered at a number of Houston-area swimming clubs.

MORE WATER-SAFETY TIPS

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following tips:

  • Never leave a child unattended in or near water, and always designate an adult Water Watcher. In addition to pools and spas, this warning includes bathtubs, buckets, decorative ponds, and fountains.
  • If you own a pool or spa, be sure to install layers of protection, including barriers, covers, and alarms, to prevent children from accessing the water without adult supervision.
  • Learn CPR so that you are prepared in case of a drowning incident. Many communities offer online CPR training.
  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Ensure any pool and spa you use has drain covers that comply with federal safety standards, and if you do not know, ask your pool service provider about safe drain covers and ask your public pool if their drains are “VGB compliant.”
  • Visit the Pool Safely Kids’ Corner to keep children entertained and educated with water safety games and activities.
  • Take the Pool Safely Pledge as a family, and find customized water safety resources using our Safer Water Information Match (S.W.I.M.) tool.