MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Apartment and condo pools are set to open again in Miami-Dade come Monday, June 1.

Experts say, before children return to the water, there needs to be a heightened alert on swim safety, citing a spike in drowning-related accidents statewide compared to this same time last year.

Malvina Duncan, Injury Prevention Coordinator at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Coordinator for Miami-Dade, attributes that to circumstances as a result of the pandemic.

“Since the kids have been home, this and other injuries, really, have increased because of just the availability for kids,” she explains.

“Florida overall, around this time, from last year, we had a 100 percent spike.”

She says children are now in the house more, and many parents are working from home and unable to watch them the whole time.

She has four key takeaways to prevent a tragedy:
-Active supervision at the pool
-Barriers to the water, like fences and alarms -Swim lessons -CPR training for parents and caretakers

Nicole Guerrero knows firsthand how quickly an accident can happen. A few years ago, she was getting her daughter out of the pool, when her young son jumped in to get a toy. She was close by, but says she was glad he knew swim survival skills.

“He just turned over, started floating, and looked up at me and said ‘Mommy!’ I said ‘It’s okay. I’m here,’ and he was fine.”

Yazmin Acocella is a swim instructor and owner of Born 2 Swim. She teaches children as young as six months now to survive in the water.

“Survival swimming is teaching children, not only how to swim independently, but how to roll over onto their back into a floating position, where they can rest and breathe,” she explains.

Normally, spring and start of summer is the time when parents are enrolling their children in lessons. Due to the pandemic, that has not been able to happen for the last two months. Acocella wants parents to still remember water safety, even in the midst of hectic circumstances.

“There’s a very big difference between confidence and competence,” she says regarding children‘s swim skills. “Competence comes with practice, repetition, and a dedication to learn how to do something correctly.”

Acocella says she hopes to open her swim school again by the middle of June, following social distancing guidelines and necessary protocols. She encourages parents to look at swim survival lessons as an essential life skill, especially as we enter the summer.

“Kids are kids,” says Guerrero. “All we can do is give them the tools to grow up to be good adults, healthy adults. This is one of the things we can do.”

Both Duncan and Acocella point out parents can not rely on “floaties” to protect their children, since children can slip out of them or they can deflate. That’s why supervision and assigning a “water watcher” at all times are critical.

According to numbers from the Florida Department of Children and Families website, there have been three child drowning deaths in Miami-Dade County so far this year. At this time last year, there were zero.

Karli Barnett