New rules at pools in the Waterloo Region because of COVID-19 have altered the jobs of local lifeguards. Local recreation officials say the health and well being of staff and swimmers is their top priority.
At the beginning of the pandemic, pools in the Waterloo Region shut down on Mar. 16 to help stop the spread. Facilities remained closed until July 14 when Premier Doug Ford announced that phase three included the opening of all indoor and outdoor swimming pools, outdoor splash pads, wading pools and other spaces like spas and whirlpools.
Lifeguards are responsible for enforcing rules, helping people in danger and also instructing classes. But with the ongoing pandemic, precautions have been put in place to ensure that all these tasks can be done while obeying physical distancing restrictions.
“There have been many things that have changed in a lifeguard role and what our main focus is now, especially with teaching and physical distancing in place,” said Nicole Coelho, the Aquatic Lead for the City of Waterloo.
Lifeguards must now wear masks over the course of their shift and when they’re instructing. They’re also responsible for teaching parents how to handle their children in the pool during lessons now that guards can no longers physically help the children due to the 2-meter physical distance rule.
Twenty-one-year-old local lifeguard Winter Danforth says that her job is much different this year.
“Not being able to get into the pool and help kids and adults during classes feels so weird,” says Danforth. “I’ve been working here for four years and we’ve never had to do things this way but we’re all trying our best.”
Changes have also been made to the lifeguard’s equipment. Each guard now has their own guard tubes with names that are disinfected every night along with the other rented equipment.
Lifeguards have also been given their own personalized fanny packs. In previous years, all items included in these packs were shared among the staff but due to how easily the virus can be spread, giving each individual their own items ensures everyone’s safety.
Precautions were also put into place to keep visitors safe. Swimmers must book their visit beforehand online since swimmer capacity has been limited to around 20 per cent.
Visitors are also screened for COVID-19 upon arrival and have their personal information taken down by customer service workers before entering the pool area.