NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) – If you went to Percy Priest Lake last weekend, you probably noticed what many others did.

“There were more boaters here than ever I’ve seen before,” says Jody Phillips. “I’ve been boating since I was 16 and over the weekend there were more boats here on the lake than I’d ever seen historically. Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4th.”

It’s something even TWRA has picked up on. 

Wildlife Officer Matthew Norman says, “The lakes have been crowded for this time of year. We typically don’t see this kind of traffic until Memorial Day, that’s really kind of the kick-off of the boating season, but this year we’ve had a lot of boats on the water.”

Part of the reason could be the mid-80 degree weather but for 89 counties, last weekend was also the first weekend stay-at-home orders relaxed and some reopening began.

“Definitely along the lines of a Fourth of July, that level of boating activity on the lakes,” explains Officer Norman.

The return of crowds and number of boating related deaths this year means safety reminders from Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. So far they’re reporting 10 people have died in the state from a boating incident, that’s just between January and May. Compare that to 2019, where 8 people died in the whole year.

“Boating is inherently dangerous. You know you have the same kind of crash injuries that you would get in a car accident or something like that but then you have to take into effect the water,” says Officer Norman.

He reminds to have all required life jackets in appropriate sizes, working navigation lights, fire extinguishers, and an awareness of the water especially the shallow parts. He also says since safety is of the utmost importance they will be out there watching.

“We patrol, were looking for safety violations. We’re looking for those boating under the influence situations. We’re trying to keep everybody safe so you know if you see us out there you can wave at us, we’ll wave back, we’re out there for your safety and wanting everyone to go home at the end of the day.”

TWRA also released this list of ways to stay safe while boating during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • Only boat with those in your immediate household: no guests or outside-of-household family.
  • Boat close to home. Make direct trips to local accesses only. Go right from your home to the access and back.
  • Maintain distance at fuel and community docks.
  • When fueling, wash your hands as you would when car fueling. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • No beaching or rafting with other boats. Maintain social distance of 6 to 10 feet.

If you have been diagnosed or are exhibiting symptoms consistent with Covid-19 (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing), you should not leave your home at all, including to participate in outdoor recreation. This self-isolation period should extend for at least 7 days after illness begins and 72 hours of being fever-free without using fever-reducing medications and resolution of other symptoms. 

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