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Why Minnesota's 10,000 lakes may not be the safest option for cooling down this summer

Drownings increased dramatically since 2020, CDC says
Drownings increased dramatically since 2020, CDC says 02:14

MINNEAPOLIS — It was a beautiful day outside but still worth swimming inside before taking a dip in a lake this summer.

"As a person who likes to lap swim, I like to be able to see and feel safe in a pool," swimmer Katie Wilson told WCCO at Phillips Aquatic Center. 

Wilson said she was a competitive swimmer as a student but mostly gave up the sport because it had gotten too expensive.

"Most lap pools are going to be located in schools, so you can't as an adult just go in the middle of the day," she said. "The other access points are large gyms which could be a couple hundred dollars."

Minnesota, of course, has roughly 10,000 options for swimming in the summer season, but lakes are bigger and deeper than pools, and that also makes them more dangerous. There's new research from the CDC, moreover, that reveals a startling rise in the number of drownings across America since the pandemic.

"I've seen firsthand the effects of drowning: families forced to say goodbye to their loved ones too soon," said Debra Houry the CDC's Chief Medical Officer. "CDC's drowning prevention experts collected high-quality drowning data to better understand how we can protect people in communities across the United States. Understanding the barriers people face to accessing basic swimming and water safety skills training can help us better understand how to address those barriers, decrease drowning rates, and save lives."

The research from the CDC included the following data: 

  • From 2020-2022, 4,500 people drowned each year in the United States; that's roughly 500 more drowning deaths each year compared to 2019.
  • Drowning is the leading cause of death among children ages 1–4.
  • Drowning increased by 28% among children ages 1–4 in 2022 compared to 2019.
  • Adults 65 years of age and older had the second highest rate of drowning.
  • Drowning increased by 19% in adults ages 65–74 in 2022 compared to 2019.
  • In 2021, drowning increased 28% among Black people compared to 2019.
  • 40 million adults do not know how to swim.
  • More than 1 in 3 Black adults (37%) reported not knowing how to swim compared to 15% of all adults.
  • About 2 in 3 Black adults (63%) reported never taking a swimming lesson.
  • About 3 in 4 Hispanic adults (72%) reported never taking a swimming lesson.

In Minneapolis, the Park Board is offering swim lessons for kids ages 3-17 at five different locations starting June 17. There are scholarships available to help improve access and affordability.

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