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Impact of COVID-19 on drownings patterns in the Great Lakes region of North America
Ocean & Coastal Management  (IF4.295),  Pub Date : 2021-02-25, DOI: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2021.105570
Chris Houser, Brent Vlodarchyk

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly altered personal and group behaviors that may directly or indirectly affect other public health issues. This paper examines if and how COVID-19 indirectly influenced beach safety and drownings within the Great Lakes region using daily drowning data from 2020 in comparison to historical trends in drownings pre-COVID. Results suggest that the number of beach drownings in the Great Lakes region was significantly greater compared to the pre-COVID period of 2010–2019. Statistically significant increases in drownings were observed in Lake Michigan (+14), Lake Ontario (+11) and Lake Huron (+4), while no change and a slight decrease was observed in Lake Superior and Lake Erie respectively. Drownings were lower than the historical average early in the pandemic but began to increase as stay-at-home orders were lifted through June and July. It is argued that the increase in drowning is due to a combination of reduced local lifeguard resources, cancelled swimming lessons, large beach crowds, warm weather, high-water levels and self-isolation fatigue. Whether in the Great Lakes region or elsewhere around the world, beach safety cannot be sacrificed in a future public health emergency by budget cuts or by reducing the focus of lifeguards with enforcement of social distancing.