With less than half the year gone, Kentucky has already had more drownings than it had all last year; top cause of death, ages 1-4

With public swimming pools closed due to the pandemic, and some families having more free time from work, the number of drownings in Kentucky this year, 33, has already surpassed the number for all of last year, 32, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The causes aren’t clear, but public pools staffed by lifeguards have not been allowed to be open until Monday. “Parents and guardians need to keep an eye on their children to ensure their safety in any body of water,” Norton Healthcare said in a news release, citing the state figures.

The fish-and-wildlife agency says there have been 14 drownings in lakes, reservoirs and streams in Kentucky since May 23, the start of the Memorial Day weekend.

“It’s concerning that we’ve seen a rise in drownings even before many pools are open,” Brit L. Anderson, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, said last week. “While many people are aware of the risks of swimming pools, it’s important to remember that other bodies of water can be dangerous, including ponds, rivers, drainage ditches and even bathtubs or backyard wading pools.”

Drowning is top cause of accidental death in children ages 1 to 4 in the U.S., according to SafeKids.org. Two-thirds of toddlers’ drownings occur from May to August, so the summer is the time to safeguard children, the Norton release says. And the safeguarding need to be vigilant; the National Drowning Prevention Alliance says nearly 90% of child drownings happen when at least one adult is present.

“Children require constant, attentive supervision when they are in water,” Anderson said. “If there are multiple adults, they need to communicate to make sure someone is watching the water without distraction. Drowning is often silent and can happen quickly.”

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.