By Charmaine Nero

At Ridgedale YMCA, swimming lessons are in full effect.

"We've had interest all along in the pandemic, really it was limited by restrictions put on pools as a whole," said Shannon Kintsler, with YMCA of the North.

She says they're adapting as they work to hire more staff to fill the gaps. 

"We keep our pools safe, but we are continuing to recruit," she said.

Although the YMCA says they're seeing more people coming in for swimming lessons this year, they're still seeing a shortage of lifeguards.

"We probably need about 100 more lifeguards for the summer to be staffed comfortably," she said.

The goal: to keep people out and about in pools and lakes safe. 

Another thing on the minds of a bipartisan group of legislators, including Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), is pushing to increase safety standards after reports of child-drowning incidents rose during the pandemic.

"We all know drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional death from kids 1 to 4," said Klobuchar.

In 2007, 6-year-old Abbey Taylor suffered an injury from a pool drain accident.

"Abigail Taylor passed away from injuries from an improperly managed drain in a public wading pool," said her sister, Gracie.

The following year, legislation was passed, requiring all public pools to install safe drain covers.

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Reauthorization Act would reauthorize the original law, increasing safety standards for public swimming pools and spas, while raising awareness to prevent pool-related injuries and deaths. 

"We strongly support this reauthorization, which if passed, would redouble our efforts," said Taylor.

YMCA of the North safety tips to practice in and around the water include:

• Never swim alone.
• Lifeguarded beaches and pools provide another layer of safety besides parental supervision. They also ensure water chemistry/beach water has been tested and is safe.
• Constantly and actively watch children by a responsible an adult.
• Always keep young children or non-swimmers within arm's reach of parent or guardian.
• Remember inexperienced or non-swimmers should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
• Be wary of inflatables because a poke or blown valve can turn into a dangerous situation quickly for a child relying on it to float.
• Don't engage in breath holding activities.
• Don't jump in the water to save a friend who is struggling in any water, rather, use a long object to reach for them and pull them to safety.
• Enroll children and non-swimmers in water safety or swim lessons.
• Be mindful of the hazards of backyard pools with standing water around because kids can fall down or can't get out and infants or preschoolers can climb or crawl in.

To learn more about programs at YMCA of the North, visit the link here.