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Why experts worry pandemic will lead to more child drownings

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 15, 2020 at 2:44 PM EDT
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With many families spending more time at home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the American Academy of Pediatrics is concerned there will be an increase in child drownings. The AAP is cautioning families to have many layers of protection in place to keep kids safe around water.

"We've already seen reports of increased drowning rates in some of the southern states," said Dr. Ben Hoffman, the chair of AAP's council on injury, violence and poison prevention.

Drowning is the single leading cause of death for children ages 1-4, and it's also one of the top causes of death for teens. Almost 70% of drownings in younger kids occur in pools when it's not swimming time.

"Whether it's an inground pool or an above-ground pool, a four-sided fence with a locking gate is the most effective thing we know that can decrease the risk of death by about 50%," Hoffman said.

Other protections around water:

- Empty bathtubs and wading pools immediately after use

- Have constant, attentive adult supervision

- Everyone should learn to swim

If swim lessons in your area are suspended because of the pandemic, having other protections in place is critical.

It's been two years since Sophia Brizeus' daughter Soraya drowned in a relative's pool, two weeks before her second birthday. Brizeus says it feels like it happened just yesterday.

"They worked on her about an hour, and then, you know, they came in the room and told me I lost my baby girl," she said.

Soraya was just about to start swim lessons a week later.

"That even hurts more, knowing I could have started her earlier and I didn't, or I should have been more present, I wasn't, and it's a lot of emotions and thoughts that are running through my mind every day about the last one second," Brizeus said.

She hopes sharing her story will help other families.

"That makes me feel like, oh, maybe she didn't die in vain. You know, like this, maybe this was the purpose for me to push, you know, toward water safety because it can happen to anybody," Brizeus said.

She says no parent should have to experience the pain of losing a child.

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