An alarming spike in the number of drownings across several of the Great Lakes last year may have been linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new research study finds.
The drownings, particularly on Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Huron, appeared to correlate to times when government restrictions on movement were relaxed during the pandemic. As community swimming pools, water parks and other options for cooling off in the summer remained closed, more people apparently chose to visit local beaches on the Great Lakes. At many of those beaches, COVID-19 contributed to local governments not providing lifeguards, swimming area markings or flag warnings for dangerous wave days.
"This means that a greater proportion of the beach users may not have had experience swimming in wave-dominated environments and may have overestimated their ability to swim safely," University of Windsor researchers Chris Houser and Brent Vlodarchyk found in their study, published in the new issue of the scientific journal Ocean & Coastal Management.