Nobody could have predicted the derailing of summer 2020 plans by a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Despite this, our community has been stepping up to the plate to help prevent the spread of this disease. Now we find ourselves in the dog days of summer – days that draw crowds to the sandy beaches and not-too-cold waters of the Clearwater River and its tributaries. For the next few months the river will be peppered with folks floating down the lazy river and congregating with friends and family on the beach.
It’s always important to consider safety when recreating near water. Set aside concerns for spreading coronavirus for just a moment and consider the power of moving water on its own. According to the Department of Interior National Park Service swift water rescue manual, water moving at only 4 mph, a brisk walking pace, exerts a force of about 66 pounds on each square foot of anything it encounters. Double that speed and the force skyrockets to 264 pounds per square foot. An adult fighting a current can quickly lead to exhaustion. A small child hasn’t a chance.
Taking this into consideration, it may not be surprising to learn that unintentional drownings are the leading cause of death among children aged 1-4 and the second leading cause of death among children aged 5-9 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite these grim statistics, it is important to understand that many of these deaths are completely preventable with the simple practice of wearing a life jacket. Today’s life jackets have come a long way from the clumsy, bulky, and abrasive jackets of the past. They are now designed to be worn all day comfortably. They even have pockets for fruit snacks. Children should always be wearing life jackets and be under the watchful eye of an adult when playing close to the shore. While statistically the mortality risk from drowning in adults is eclipsed by other chronic medical conditions, it is important to consider that among adult drownings, 88% were recorded as not wearing a life jacket.
It would seem that now is more important than ever to get out of the house and in to nature. Being outdoors has long been studied for its potential benefits to physical and emotional wellbeing. From an infectious disease standpoint, social distancing is easier outdoors than in. But as the cases of coronavirus continue to rise in Idaho it is important to realize that this menace is not fading during the warmer months much like we see with the seasonal influenza virus. Allowing for 6 feet of distance when possible and wearing face coverings outdoors are more important than ever, and don’t forget to toss in a container of disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer with your sunscreen and water.
Looking ahead we may experience a particularly rough fall with the combination of seasonal influenza and coronavirus. Consider asking your primary care provider if you would benefit from a pneumonia vaccination and as soon as they are available get a flu shot. While there has been enormous global collaboration to develop a vaccination against the coronavirus, it is unlikely that this will be available before the fall when we begin to see a seasonal uptick in influenza. Remain vigilant and call your primary care provider if you develop symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath. Testing for coronavirus has become much more convenient compared to early days of the pandemic and a testing booth has been constructed outside Clearwater Valley Hospital.
Have fun and stay safe this summer.