VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — There’s lots of excitement surrounding Virginia Beach reopening beaches to recreational activity this Friday. However, we wanted to know how lifeguards plan to protect people while protecting themselves during the outbreak.
So, we went to Tom Gill, the Chief of Virginia Beach Lifesaving Service, for answers. His lifeguards patrol the Oceanfront resort area, Croatan, and North End beaches.
"We are going to put out our regular staffing for Memorial Day weekend that we would've put out any other summer," Gill said.
He said the pandemic put a pause on training new lifeguards, but they have enough returning guards to make sure everyone visiting the beach is safe.
Even with a full staff, which totals to more than 200 lifeguards, Gill said it's imperative the team takes extra steps to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 by providing two packs of supplies to every lifeguard.
One pack is filled with standard first aid gear. The second one is filled with items like masks, hand sanitizers, and gloves.
"We are very excited to see more people out there as long as everybody's going to do what they can to keep everyone safe, which is always our goal every day on the beach, but now it's a little more important,” said Gill.
That's not the only change. If a person needs rescuing and they are still above water, the same protocol still applies. A lifeguard will throw a buoy out to them while they're six feet apart. That’s the amount of space recommended by the CDC. However, once the person's brought to shore, Gill said that lifeguard will step away.
Then "supervisors and other guards with PPE (N-95 masks) on will take over the medical immediately," Gill said.
Nevertheless, if a swimmer goes underwater, lifeguards will still physically grab the person and pull them to safety if needed, but that demand for close contact is why Gill is asking beachgoers to do their part.
"Our lifeguards are going to have to respond and have some type of interaction and the more that we limit that interaction, the better off everybody is going to be," Gill explained.