New warning from government to prevent accidental drownings this summer; Waterbury offering free swimming lessons

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is urging parents to make water safety a high priority this summer as the weather improves and more places are ending COVID-19 restrictions due to higher vaccination rates and lowering infection rates.

The CPSC says during the height of the pandemic, fewer kids were getting swimming lessons because of COVID closures. The CEO of The Greater Waterbury YMCA says that mirrors what he’s seen there.

“During COVID when we were able to open we were only able to service 160 kids in our swim lessons program,” said CEO Jim O’Rourke. “Where prior to that we were serving 300 kids.”

O’Rourke tells News 8 the Y is teaming up with the city’s Parks and Rec Department and Police Activities League (PAL) officers for the Learn to Swim program.

“Between the free swim lessons with the YMCA, Police Activities League, and the city’s Parks and Rec Department, our goal is to service over 700 kids this summer,” O’Rourke said.

“We want to do everything we can to prevent those incidents from happening and that’s why this Learn to Swim Summer Program is one of the most important activities we can offer this summer,” said Sgt. Ryan Bessette of the Waterbury Police Department.

Victor Cuevas, Waterbury’s Supervisor of Recreation, tells News 8 the city will offer lessons at the pools at Kennedy High School and at the city’s middle schools. He also adds city pools at several city parks open June 26.

Cuevas tells News 8 the city has hired more lifeguards and four could be on duty at a single time. To increase safety measures, only 50 kids will be allowed into the city’s pools at a time and people must make appointments to cool off. That information can be found on the YMCA’s website.

Cuevas tells News 8 the city was able to hire 35 lifeguards. They were hoping for 30. They’re still looking to hire even more if they can.

For anyone who would like to inquire about the swimming lessons, you’re urged to contact the YMCA next to the Waterbury Green or the Waterbury PAL on Division Street.

“As we enter the summer months, parents and caregivers must be mindful of the pandemic’s impact on their children’s swimming ability and water safety skills,” said CPSC Acting Chairman Robert Adler. “The CPSC’s latest report confirms that most child drownings involve children under the age of five, whose limited experience around the water due to recent social distancing restrictions could put them at greater risk of drowning. With fewer children attending swimming lessons during the past year, it is critical to refresh these and other life-saving skills, while practicing increased vigilance both anywhere children are swimming and during non-swim times as well.”

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