WILDWOOD, N.J. – Almost all beaches in the U.S. have been open for the summer and lifeguards are making changes to protect themselves and beach-goers from the coronavirus.
“Whenever we come off the stand and we interact with the public, we’re going to be wearing masks and we’re going to have gloves,” said Nick Priest, a lifeguard in Wildwood, N.J.
Each lifeguard stand in Wildwood has been equipped with PPE like masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
“Now they are working in teams of two, but they can’t sit in the stand together,” said Steve Stocks, the chief of the Wildwood Beach Patrol.
Morning meetings with more than 50 guards have also changed to smaller meetings of four lifeguards or fewer.
In Wildwood, lifeguards have been learning new ways to perform rescues in order to socially distance as much as possible.
“In the past procedure of rescue, the lifeguard would come up to you with his rescue buoy... and the lifeguard would go behind the victim and secure them to the buoy and hold them onto the buoy,” Stocks said.
According to Stocks, lifeguards now have been training to pass the victim a buoy from six feet away in the water.
“The lifeguard says, hold onto the buoy yourself, and will backstroke the victim in,” Stocks added.
When it comes to CPR, the plan has been for lifeguards to focus on chest compressions. If mouth-to-mouth is needed, Stocks said lifeguards would have equipment to ensure no direct contact between a lifeguard and a victim.
“They’ll use a bag valve mask. So, you are not going to put your face near the victim’s face,” Stocks said.
At Bethany Beach in Delaware, lifeguards have been undergoing daily temperature checks.
“We start every morning with wellness checks, temperature checks,” said Joe Donnelly, a lifeguard captain at Bethany Beach.
Lifeguards there will have masks on - unless going into the water.
“We obviously do not want our lifeguards wearing masks into the water. That would impede their ability to do their job,” Donnelly added.
According to the U.S. Lifesaving Association [USLA], more people have been applying for lifeguard jobs this summer.
“In talking with all different regions, that’s kind of what I’m hearing from all over, is that there are plenty of people that want to work,” USLA Vice President Tom Gill said.
There’s been an increase in applicants in Wildwood and Bethany Beach.
“We are actually still turning away applicants. You know, even as late as this week,” Donnelly said. “All the folks that had internships, summer school, or different types of apprenticeships. Even some of that’s been put on hold.”
“We have had lifeguards who had left the profession lose their primary profession. So, they have requested to come back,” Stocks added.
It’s a relief for veteran lifeguards like Priest, a teacher who’s been working from home for the past few months.
“It was a lot of video chatting and submitting things online and reaching out via phone and emails. This is definitely a breath of fresh air, getting out here finally. The suns out, you get to talk to people. It’s real life again. You know?” Priest said.