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Lifeguard Shortage Hitting Town Beaches

A lifeguard stand at a private beach in North Falmouth.
Liz Lerner
A lifeguard stand at a beach in North Falmouth.

COVID-19 has deepened the annual challenge of getting enough lifeguards to staff local town beaches.

In Barnstable, they’re short 21 lifeguards out of the 105 they normally hire to protect swimmers at ocean beaches and several freshwater ponds.

And Truro is offering a $500 bonus to lifeguards who are vaccinated for COVID-19 and stay the entire season.

Gordon Miller, a supervisory lifeguard at the Cape Cod National Seashore who participated in a recent phone call for beach managers, said some of the towns are scrambling.

Because of precautions against the pandemic, lifeguard training programs haven’t been running for a year or more, he said.

“So there's probably been a couple of thousand people who haven't been trained as lifeguards in Massachusetts alone,” he said.

He said the Seashore is in good shape because it offers housing, but for the towns, housing will continue to limit their hiring after the pandemic is gone.

“It's a double whammy of those two,” he said of housing and COVID-19.

Barnstable Recreation Director Patti Machado said normally, the town’s training program fills the need.

“It's usually worked out very well,” she said. “We've been very fortunate for many years. But not having the classes last year hurt us.”

Barnstable is offering a training course next week after school.

Graduates are eligible for positions that pay $17.50 an hour.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.