With summer in Seattle well underway, lifeguards are back at four of the city’s beaches: Madison, Magnuson, west Green Lake and Pritchard.
As temperatures started to rise, people flocked to the city’s nine swimming beaches, which hadn’t been staffed all summer due to concerns about the novel coronavirus, said Rachel Schulkin, a spokesperson for Seattle Parks and Recreation.
“The city was really working with two competing public health needs,” Schulkin said. “One is water safety and one is transmission of COVID-19.”
She said the parks department usually relies on summer temps or its lifeguard program to staff the beaches, but the city wasn’t hiring for the program this summer due to coronavirus-related budget cuts. Instead, the city reassigned many indoor lifeguards to beaches, she said.
The four beaches will be staffed from noon to 7 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. There are no current plans to have lifeguards at the other city beaches.
Schulkin said the department is also sharing new safety guidelines, which include instructing people to wear masks whenever they’re not in the water and to stay chest-deep while swimming. Beach staff will also include an extra lifeguard whose job it is to make sure people comply with social-distancing regulations, she said.
“It reduces chances that someone will have to rescue you,” Schulkin said. “Water rescue is really close contact … So it’s a risk for everyone. With those extra guidelines, we can hopefully mitigate some of the transmission risk.”
And there’s a lot to remember about water safety even without COVID-19, she said: Swim at lifeguarded beaches whenever possible. Never swim alone. Drinking and swimming don’t mix. And wear a life jacket whenever you’re on a boat.
“These things are real and they happen to people who are very able-bodied and know how to swim,” she said, after mentioning the two swimmers who went missing in Lake Washington over the weekend. “It’s something to always be cognizant and aware of … That’s not another thing we want to be dealing with in the region right now.”