VB lifeguards to delay when they start beach patrol due to COVID 19


VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — What would be an unthinkable scenario during normal times, Virginia Beach’s EMS department has announced that lifeguards will not take their stands along any beach Memorial Day weekend.

Just as with so many other parts of life upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, the lifeguard services provided each year are being forced to adapt.

Historically, guards with the Virginia Beach Life Saving Service begin patrolling the resort beach on May 1, with guards going in stands beginning May 16.

However, this year simply getting guards trained is proving to be a challenge.

In a letter last week to Deputy City Manager Steve Cover, who oversees all the city’s public safety operations, Virginia Beach EMS Chief Ed Brazle explained that lack of access to recreation centers had effectively halted all pre-employment screening and training.

Recreation centers were deemed non-essential by Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) back in March and closed. On Wednesday, that order was extended.

“We’re doing what we can but I can not guarantee that private or public lifeguards will be available in the month of May,” Brazle wrote. “Even when resources do become available, we must consider employee risks. Most lifeguards are not equipped nor trained to deal with potentially infectious patients.”

On Thursday, Virginia Beach EMS Deputy Chief Joey Hundley confirmed an agreement was being made with the parks and recreation department to open up pools to allow for guard pre-employment screening and training to begin.

The plan is still to delay when the guards start patrols though, in order to encourage compliance with the governor’s stay at home order, which limits beach activity to “exercising and fishing.”

“The plan is to put some reduced patrols out on the beach on Memorial Day… from the resort to Sandbridge,” Hundley said. “On June 10 the plan is to be fully ready to staff the beaches at 100 percent.”

Swimming is considered “exercise” and with nice weather, Hundley says patrols will be provided as a safety precaution.

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