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Lifesaving Society calls for supervised pools to be reopened amid drowning concerns

Many municipalities are too slow to or not opening pools where lifeguards are working

Due to Covid-19 Pandemic, Kingston’s recreational pools have remained closed since March 17th. Since that time, several municipal beaches and waterfront swim access spots are open as of June 26th. However, many of these spots remain at the swimmers own risk, with minimal supervision. The Lifesaving Society is now calling for supervised pools to be reopened, citing concerns about an increase in drownings this summer.

“One thing that I worry about this year is that many municipalities are too slow to open or not opening pools where lifeguards work, and the safest place to swim is where lifeguards work, because they are professional. If you don’t have a pool to go swimming and you just go to the lake, I am concerned that there will be more drownings.” said Barbara Byers, public education director for the Lifesaving Society

Listen to Barbara Byers, Public Education Director for the Lifesaving Society, discuss her concerns about supervised pool closures with Matt at YGK News

Barbara Byers is the Public Education Director for the Lifesaving Society

The Statistics

According to the Lifesaving Society, 35 people in Ontario have died from accidental drownings this summer. This is an increase from 33 deaths in 2019. Of these individuals, 13 deaths occurred while swimming, 10 occurred while on boats, and 5 occurred on snowmobiles. 80% of deaths were not wearing Personal Flotation Devices (PFD’s). Less than 1% of deaths occur when supervision is present. “The statistics are about the same as last year, but it’s too early to tell [if there will be a significant increase in drownings]” While these statistics are quite similar from last year, Byers suggests that proper supervision needs to occur if we want avoid preventable deaths.

A Snapshot of the Lifesaving Society’s 2019 Drowning Report, Courtesy of the Lifesaving Society

Reopening Guidelines

On July 2nd, the Lifesaving Society published its Guide to Reopening Pools and Waterfronts. According to their website, the guideline is intended to assist facility owners, operators and Lifesaving Society leadership personnel to adapt their facility’s operation to mitigate the risk to staff and public health posed by COVID-19. The guide addresses a number of topics, including a reopening timeline, facility staff, employee equipment, facility access, personal protective equipment (PPE) and facility admission.

Municipal Approaches Very Widely

Byer’s said that municipalities have taken very different approaches to the issue. “There are some municipalities that have nothing open, including beaches and indoor pools. Ottawa on the other hand, has opted to open everything, wading pools and public swimming pools. Said Byers. The City of Ottawa has announced that as of Monday, all recreational swimming pools will be reopened.

In a statement to CBC News, Ottawa Public Health said that there is little scientific evidence showing that the virus can spread through properly treated water. However, they did advise that “common areas and surfaces could be places where transmission occurs.”


When asked about next steps for Kingston, Byer’s said “I would encourage them to open their pools and contact the lifesaving society if they need guidance on re-opening”

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