40 million US adults lack swimming skills, contributing to rise in drownings

Drowning deaths increased in the US for the first time since 2019

SAN ANTONIO – For the first time since 2019, there has been an increase in drownings in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2020 to 2022, the CDC said 4,500 people drowned.

One reason why people drown is that they don’t know how to swim. In fact, 40 million adults in the US don’t know how to swim, with the majority of them being Black and Hispanic, the CDC said.

The CDC reports 63% of Black adults and 72% of Hispanic adults have never taken a swim lesson.

More communities across the country are trying to help people learn how to swim by offering affordable or free water safety classes or swim lessons.

The YMCA of Greater San Antonio is one organization pushing to break the stigma.

“What we try to do is make it as accessible as possible, to get skills and confidence around water, for everyone in San Antonio,” Shannon Gowan with YMCA said.

The YMCA is on a mission to provide the opportunity to teach the community how to swim by offering scholarships for swim lessons as well as a free water safety class.

The free classes are for people of all ages but you must register online.

The City of San Antonio also offers free group swim lessons, including the ‘Let’s Swim SA’ program that launches this summer.

There is also the U.S. National Water Safety Action Plan in place to hire diverse staff that look like the communities they serve.

Below are some basic water safety tips to help prevent drownings:

  • Don’t swim alone
  • Supervise all children at all times
  • Build a fence that fully encloses and separates the pool from the house
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Don’t drink alcohol while swimming
  • Learn CPR skills

About the Authors

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.

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