St. Johns County beaches have been reopened for regular hours and activities. And while residents prepare for another day in the sun, county lifeguards are preparing for a growing influx of beachgoers, especially during Memorial Day weekend.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the county’s marine rescue still operated under pre-beach season hours, according to its spokesperson, Jeremy Robshaw, so employment and operations weren’t altered as drastically as other industries.
But now that beaches reopened just before summer, lifeguards are quickly training for what they expect to be a busy and thriving season as those who were quarantined in their homes anxiously make way back to the ocean shore.
“We’ve just been preparing and anticipating large crowds,” Robshaw said. “We’ve handled that so far. We’re looking at what it’s going to take to get back to full operations.”
Marine Rescue had to cancel dates for its lifeguard tryouts program during the shutdown, but it resumed last week after the county lifted regulations.
“We’re all in compliance with all the guidelines,” Robshaw said. “We’ve received the same training for protective equipment like gloves, goggles, rain shields and received all the recent information on social distancing. Now, we’re back to the lifeguard training and just trying to get staff prepared.”
The main focus for Marine Rescue is to be fully staffed and ready for Memorial Day weekend. And so far, according to Robshaw, almost everyone has been cooperative with the new regulations and distancing guidelines – beachgoers and staff included.
“There haven’t been any major issues,” he said. “There are always a couple outliers, but for the most part, everyone has been well-behaved, respectful and they’re just thankful to finally be back out on the beaches.”
For now, lifeguards are positioned in rescue trucks along the shore. They will move to their more-recognizable towers during the Memorial Day weekend and will maintain their well-positioned perches through Labor Day weekend.