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Editorial: Swimming proficiency is a local 'must'

Pools are open. Riverfront beaches invite us. Jump in, everyone!

Well, not everyone and not so quick.

Every day about 10 people die in the U.S. from unintentional drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 1 in 5 is a child age 14 or under. Drowning, in fact, ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States.

We managed to make it through the 2019 flood without a local drowning, but the importance of water safety doesn't go down with dropping water levels.

What can we do to prevent tragedy?

Staying away from the water isn't the answer. Lakes and rivers and ponds abound: every Minnesota resident lives within 6.4 miles of a recreational body of water in "The Land of 10,000 Lakes" and Wisconsin has thousands and thousands, too, in addition to bordering not one but two of the Great Lakes. Then add in retention ponds, reservoirs and streams.

One answer, probably the most important one, is swimming lessons. We should ensure that every child learns how to swim. While parents and guardians are ultimately responsible, schools must play a vital important role. In fact, one can argue that every school district, regardless of whether its campus includes a pool, should require swimming proficiency. (Hitting a volleyball, tennis ball or baseball is physical education, but swimming lessons are lessons for life.)

Another answer is to wear a life jacket. One person a day drowns after falling into the water from a boat. Face it: Having a floating device in the boat may be better than nothing, but wearing one only makes sense.

Finally, respect the water. It's depth. It's power. It's refreshing qualities.

Then each of us can say, "Come on in. The water's fine," and also that we were fine when we got out.