Trouble hiring lifeguards will lead to pool, beach closures

BOSTON (AP) — Closures last year during the pandemic along with international workers having difficulty getting visas is leaving many lifeguard positions unfilled this summer.

That will mean some pools and beaches will be closed, even as people flock to the water and the shore to cool off and relax as the coronavirus pandemic eases in many New England states, the Boston Globe reported on Sunday.

Many certification or recertification classes were shut down during the pandemic and when they reopened, social distancing guidelines kept classes small, the American Lifeguard Association told the newspaper.

There is also a backlog for processing visa applications for seasonal workers, B.J. Fisher, the association’s director of health and safety, said.

The shortage of certified lifeguards has been a problem for years.

The town of Barnstable is still trying to recruit another two dozen lifeguards to reach its goal of having 105 on staff. That’s despite offering referral bonuses and recruiting at schools, swim teams and a youth job fair.

“It’s been a challenge,” Cindi Machado, Barnstable’s recreation director, told the newspaper.

Lifeguard training includes certifications in first aid and CPR as well as passing a swimming test. Some employers are offering to pay for the certifications or reimburse certain fees for lifeguards they hire.

The scramble to train and hire lifeguards also comes as many pools were shut down at points during the last year, meaning missed swimming lessons for some young children.

“As we go into summer, as children have even more access to water, I think the message is just for parents and those who supervise children to be extra vigilant about supervision this year,” said Lindsay Mondick, YMCA director of innovative priorities.