According to reports, a nationwide shortage of lifeguards in the US is forcing local pools to close for the summer.
Major cities throughout New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and many others are announcing reduced hours of operations for public pools, or just shutting down entirely due to the shortage of lifeguards.
Experts are estimating that a third of the pools in the US will be affected by overall staff shortages. The American Lifeguard Association estimated that by September half of the pools in the US will be impacted by these shortages.
“The shortage is real, it’s a crisis.” said Bernard Fisher, the director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association.
According to the New Orleans Advocate, city officials in New Orleans said that the municipal government would only open five of its 15 pools, and may be able to open up three more if the city can recruit more lifeguards.
Chicago typically opens up their pools to the public on June 24th, but missed the deadline this year due to a lack of lifeguards and staff overall. City officials are reassigning lifeguards from local beaches to hopefully open up more pools as the summer progresses.
New York currently has half the number of available lifeguards when compared to pre-pandemic levels. The state announced last week that they would be increasing the starting pay for lifeguards and developing a training program to staff more of the city’s pools.
Experts have stated that they’ve feared a lifeguard shortage for years prior to this summer, but the Covid-19 pandemic and an unstable labor market has made those fears a difficult reality.
YMCA water safety expert Lindsay Mondick said a “lack of available US student visas has worsened the shortage, because many lifeguards in the country are foreign students. The slow release of more visas is having only a limited effect on the staffing shortages.”
“We have been concerned about this potential lifeguard shortage for a number of years now. But I would say that Covid and the current tight labor market has really exacerbated this issue.”
Fisher said “simply increasing wages may not solve staffing issues because not enough people are training to be lifeguards.”
“If cities cannot find ways to recruit more trained lifeguards and open up local pools, people may seek out unmonitored and possibly more dangerous swimming options in order to taste relief from the summer heat,” Fisher stated.
“It’s such a crisis that if we don’t start resolving it this year, it’s going to be even worse next year, which I just can’t imagine,” Fisher said.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.