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Drowning deaths up sharply, especially among young kids: CDC

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Unintentional drowning death rates increased significantly in the three years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Using data from the National Vital Statistics System, agency researchers compared unintentional drowning death rates in 2019 with those in 2020, 2021 and 2022. They also used data from a national survey that asked adults about their swimming skills, participation in swimming lessons and exposure to recreational water.

In 2019, the overall unintentional drowning death rate was 1.2 per 100,000 people. It was 10.5% higher in 2020, 13.7% higher in 2021 and 9.1% higher in 2022.

Among kids ages 1-4, the rate increased 28.9% between 2019 and 2021 and 28.3% from 2019 to 2022. The researchers say the increases “might partly reflect” pandemic-related disruptions in the availability of open pools and swimming lessons.

Results of the survey show that 55% of respondents have never taken swimming lessons. That percentage was higher for Hispanic (72%) and Black (63%) adults.

“Differences in access to swimming lessons are one barrier that could contribute to these outcomes,” the CDC says. “Swimming lessons can be expensive or may not be available in some communities.”

The analysis was published online in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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