As summer reaches its peak, the province is facing some tragic numbers. A spike in drownings in Quebec is raising concerns about residents' safety on the water. The Société de Sauvetage has counted 60 drownings so far this year — that's compared to just 41 for the same period last year.

"It is a very worrying situation," Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Security, Geneviève Guilbault, said Monday.

And it could be due to the pandemic.

"There are more Quebecers who are spending their vacation here. So there's more risk of drowning if there are more people on, in, or above the water," Société de Sauvetage spokesperson Anne-Marie Francoeur told MTL Blog.

There could be other factors too. 

Some jurisdictions have closed or limited capacity at supervised swimming facilities, so more people are taking to unmonitored waters.

According to the Association des commerçants de piscines du Québec, there has also been a 40% spike in pool sales this year.

The Société also suggests that an increase in telework could mean that parents are unable to watch their children while they swim.

The drownings in 2020 have other similarities. According to Francoeur, men represent a majority of victims. Many of those cases involve a boat.

75% of drownings also take place in natural settings. 38% take place in rivers, which can hide strong, unpredictable currents and slippery rocks below calm surfaces. 

For these reasons, the Société recommends against swimming in rivers.

In fact, Francoeur encourages Quebecers to only swim in locations where lifeguards are present.

Her other advice: wear a life jacket, beware of the dangers at every swimming location, never swim alone, and limit alcohol consumption — "one consumption on water is equivalent to three on land," the Société says.

The Government of Quebec has its own online list of advice to avoid drownings.

Guilbault called the spike in drownings this year "heartbreaking," especially considering that "every drowning is a drama" for loved ones.

"We have to be very careful this year. All circumstances are [united] to explain this higher number of drownings."

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