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Safety Concerns As Local Beaches Open For Summer

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Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach are now open for all beach activities. Lifeguard staff started Memorial Day weekend.

 

Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional beginning of summer, and as restrictions lift, beaches up and down the coast are opening. WHQR reports on the challenge lifeguards face keeping beachgoers--and themselves--safe.  

Last summer, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Wrightsville Beach saw an estimated one and three quarter million visitors. And--according to the United States Lifesaving Association-- lifeguards made more than 450 water rescues.  

While everything about this summer is difficult to predict, Tom Gill, Vice President of USLA,  says there are certain things everyone can do to reduce the dangers that surround them on the beach.

“Keep an eye on your children. Don’t go in the water if the lifeguard’s not out there or if the lifeguard says it’s dangerous. [...] But this is the summer we really need everybody to be ‘safety first’, a hundred percent, so we can minimize those contacts and everybody can enjoy the beach safely.”

But during the pandemic, when it comes to protecting lifeguards during water rescues, there’s no easy or straightforward answer. Tony Wallace is the Ocean Rescue Director for Carolina Beach. 

“I mean there’s a certain time when you got to make a rescue, that the whole social distance thing, you can’t do it, but for the most part once we get to the sand, it’ll be a little easier to do. You know, we’ve instructed them to put a mask on the patient, if they’re in close contact with them.” 

And USLA officials released a statement saying they’re hopeful that lifeguards-- typically a younger and healthier group--will face a lower risk for hospitalization from Covid-19.  

But at the end of the day, Tom Gill of the USLA says, lifeguards are first responders, and there are risks that go with the job.