SE Wisconsin sees sharp rise in drownings this summer; COVID-19 could play role


MILWAUKEE -- There has been a sharp rise in drownings in southeast Wisconsin this summer. Health experts shared one surprising reason for that increase -- and offered safety tips that could save your life.

There have been more drownings in southeast Wisconsin in the last six months than in all of 2019.

Dr. Margaret Barron

"I have personally had to tell many mothers that their child or their teenager is gone," said Ascension Health Care Emergency Medicine Specialist Margaret Barron.

Dr. Barron said some of the effects of COVID-19 could be to blame for this recent spike in drownings. Many public pools are closed, so people are opting for more dangerous waters with currents including Lake Michigan. Also, there are no lifeguards on duty.

If you believe you are at risk of drowning, Dr. Barron said to follow the three Fs -- flip, float, and follow.

"Flip over onto your back and keep your head above water. And lie on your back and try to figure out which way the current is pulling you," Dr. Barron said. "And then, try and swim perpendicular to the current. If you can`t do that, stay on your back until someone notices you."

The doctor also said everyone needs to wear a life jacket.

"We have some unique currents here that they don't have in any other large lakes," Dr. Barron said. "You can actually get caught in one of those currents when you're only knee deep...if you fall, it just drags you out."

Ascension asks people with small pools to dump the water every night -- saying young children can drown in less than a foot of water. They saw a drowning can happen in a matter of seconds.

Learn more about the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project

McKinley Beach, Milwaukee