'There is a certain amount of added risk this summer,' said Tom Gillin, director of Ocean Rescue.
Flagler Beach lifeguards take their temperatures when they begin duty, to screen for possible COVID-19 infections. They also made an informal pact to limit their social activity, mostly spending time with other lifeguards or their own families, to limit the spread. But they can’t wear masks while they’re rescuing people, and they can’t keep 6 feet away from a drowning resident.
“There is a certain amount of added risk this summer,” said Tom Gillin, director of Ocean Rescue and recreation director for the city of Flagler Beach.
The good news is for lifeguards is, if people have COVID-19 or are otherwise sick, they’re less likely to go to the beach, and transmission is also less likely outdoors.
The lifeguards recently were invited to do extra training after work one day, so that the Flagler Beach Photography Club could take action photos. Gillin expected five or six guards to volunteer, but 24 — almost all of the available 30 guards — participated.
“I don’t know who had a better time, the lifeguards or the photography club,” Gillin said.
“What a fabulous, dedicated group of young athletes,” said photographer Lori Vetter Bowers.
Gillin said he’s had a lot of turnover among the guards this year, just because it’s a seasonal job and is typically filled by high school juniors and seniors as well as college students.
His two captains are experienced and highly trained. David Petkovsek is in his early 30s, the oldest guard on the team, and is also a medic for Bradford County. Chris Davy has finished nursing school and begins working for AdventHealth next month. The Flagler Beach Fire Department is also close by, if additional emergency medical treatment is necessary for beachgoers.
After a very busy Memorial Day weekend this year, in which 34 people were rescued, some by first-time lifeguards, Gillin said the next test will be July 4.