How Lifeguards Are Adapting Their Rescue Protocols During the Pandemic

Lifeguard station
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In some places around the country, beaches and pools are taking baby steps toward reopening. But in the face of COVID-19, for lifeguards, saving a drowning swimmer will be very different.

With memorial day weekend approaching, there are new safety protocols for lifeguards to protect them from contracting the virus. "We're gonna look like we're doing the same thing, but we're gonna be approaching situations differently," said Cary Epstein, founder of Epi-Center Water Rescue.

One crucial piece of equipment will be the bag valve mask. It takes the place of potentially risky mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

"Simply hold the mask down onto the face and squeeze the bag," Epstein said. There are also other new safety measures in place to protect lifeguards and beachgoers — one new item in first aid kits will be a medical grade mask.

Anyone on the beach could be asymptomatic, so lifeguards across the country are being told to assume that anyone they are interacting with is infected with the virus, and act accordingly.

During a water rescue, Epstein said a snorkel mask could be an added safety measure. 

"Lifeguards have always accepted these dangers of their job," Epstein said. "We will always save someone's life or choose to protect someone's life over our own, that's what we do."

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