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THE FRONT LINE: Barrie's baywatch ready to return to action

Lifeguards will take their posts on Monday, June 29 and be working until the Friday before Labour Day

Barrie’s lifeguards will be back at their posts on Monday, June 29 and working until the Friday before Labour Day.

COVID-19 has made front-line workers even more vital, but along with that job comes caution and preparation.

Lifeguards are among those who need to be able to respond to a life-and-death situation and possibly come in very close contact with someone in distress.

City of Barrie manager of recreation Steve Lee Young told BarrieToday that, despite the obvious risk of the current pandemic, local lifeguards are ready for whatever comes their way.  

“The fortunate thing about lifeguards is they are actually very prepared for COVID-19 as it is, because part of their training is to be aware of possible disease situations,” he said. “They come with all the proper certification as it is, and we’ll be reminding everyone about the current situation, but they are ready coming into the season.”

Between 17 and 25 people, mainly students, are hired to oversee Centennial and Johnson’s beaches. They have been training indoors as well in the lake for on-site training. 

“They work at many different scenarios and are just as prepared for dry-land situations as they are for a water crisis,” Young said. 

On June 13, the City of Barrie opened its beaches, but without lifeguards.

Last year, city council voted to extend the time lifeguards spend at their posts by a week. While they were to finish up on Aug. 18, the city had them stay until Aug. 23.

This year, lifeguards will be on duty until Sept. 4.

There are many restrictions in place for trying to maintain responsible crowd numbers to handle community transmission of COVID-19. City staff have been in consultation with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. 

Young said local lifeguards will be expected to wear masks, but not at all times.

“When they are in the chairs, they are not required to wear masks, but during shift change ... they will put them on,” he said. “Essentially, they will have them on when the possibility of getting close to people could happen. They obviously will not worry about them should they have to make a rescue in the water.”

Lifeguards are also provided with reaching poles and other rescuing apparatuses, if needed.

The city provides lifeguards to only Centennial and Johnson’s beaches. Their shifts run from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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