Not only is the nation facing shortages of truckers, teachers, and restaurant workers, as summer begins, but also lifeguards for many of the county’s public pools, according to the American Lifeguard Association’s director of health and safety.
Bernard Fisher II, director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association told Axios Monday that a third of the nation’s more than 300,000 public pools may not be able to open for the summer and could potentially cause an increase in drownings due to a lack of certified swimming lessons.
“That means we're going to have increased drownings because one of the things that you want to do is learn how to swim as early as possible," Fisher told Axios. “It's becoming a snowball effect that this is not only a crisis this year, but we need to relook at how we need to prevent this from continuing into many more years."
In March, Newsweek reported on Fisher’s warning about the upcoming shortage, noting that there are not enough youth getting certified to become lifeguards to staff all the public pools.
"Regretfully, it's probably going to be the worst summer," Fisher told Newsweek in March. "We have 309,000 public pools in the U.S., but we don't have the youth in the ratio to the population."
The shortage, according to Fisher, dates back before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 because the United States was relying on foreigners with J1 visas to fill those roles, bringing “tens of thousands of lifeguards over every summer to help fill the positions that we needed.”
According to the report, the pandemic then cut off the supply by suspending those visas.
"We're going to get the facilities open, but we won't have the staff to do the rotation, or we won't have the staff we'd like to see. Some of these kids haven't been in the water in two years," Fisher told Newsweek. "Not only do we have a lifeguard shortage, but now we don't have enough kids who know how to swim, who can't become lifeguards in five to 10 years."
Television station 4 CBS Miami reported Monday that experts are also blaming the low pay, training costs, limited season, and a “general lack of interest” of people who might take on the job.
“They could go work at Target for the same pay, or McDonald’s, and there’s no testing and they’re not responsible for someone’s life,” Dave Baker, the City of Harrisburg’s parks and recreation director in Pennsylvania told the Patriot News last week.
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