VENTNOR – Members of the Beach Patrol are not immune to contracting COVID-19. Although several “waves” of infections have affected lifeguards, they are not coming as a result of “knucklehead” behavior, according to Commissioner of Public Safety and Community Affairs Tim Kriebel.
“These are not college-age guys. They are mature adults and could be considered veteran lifeguards,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday, July 29.
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy said the state has “crushed the curve” over the last four months, but with summer in high gear, has slipped back to infection rates of early June.
“Over the past four days, we have reported roughly 2,000 new positive coronavirus test results,” he said during a briefing, encouraging residents and visitors to use common sense, socially distance, wear masks and avoid risky behavior.
He said the increasing number of cases can be traced to indoor house parties. Teens in Middletown had a party that resulted in 50 new positives in young people, ages 14-19. Long Beach Island had 36 lifeguards test positive after they attended a party, and a huge house party that attracted 700 attendees in Jackson required the entire police department to break it up. The outcome of that party is unknown at this time, he said.
“Yes, it’s summer. Yes, we all want, and in many cases, need to blow off some steam, but this is no time for anyone to be vying for induction into the knucklehead hall of fame,” Murphy said.
Kriebel said two lifeguards tested positive in early July and the infections came in waves. There were two sets of eight lifeguards they came in contact with on their shifts who were sent home and asked to quarantine for 14 days. All their tests came back negative, he said. One of the two lifeguards who tested positive has returned to work after being cleared, and the city is waiting for a second test result for the second guard.
As far as he knows, the infected guards did not display “grave or desperate” symptoms.
Two other lifeguards have been sent home and asked to quarantine after displaying flu-like symptoms. Their test results are pending.
“Just yesterday, another two guards were sent home with flu-like symptoms and we are waiting for their test results,” he said. “These are mature adults who were infected in the course of their daily lives. No knucklehead parties.”
And, through July, the Beach Patrol was able to cover all shifts, and no beaches went unprotected, Kriebel said.
This year, the Beach Patrol had two lifeguards in two stands 10 feet apart, and all locations were fully staffed, he said.
“Because it happened in waves, we were never short of lifeguards,” he said.
The addition of two part-time EMTs on ATVs stationed at the pier has helped to protect the lifeguards.
“They are fully equipped with PPE and rescue kits for close-contact emergency calls freeing up lifeguards to protect the beach,” Kriebel said. “They have been doing about 20 calls a week, but most calls just require a Band-Aid or asprin.”
Kriebel said the city would likely keep the EMTs next year.
“It adds another level of service, even though all our lifeguards are trained in first aid and CPR,” he said.
Kriebel said he is looking forward to the time things return to normal, “but until then, it’s just something we will have to deal with.”
Murphy said the state reported an additional 489 new positive tests Wednesday, for a total of 180,766. The daily positive rate is up slightly to 2.42%, the rate of transmission is up to 1.4, above the goal of 1 or less. There are 361 patients in hospitals, 400 recovering at home. Of that amount, 116 were in intensive care and 49 on ventillators. There were no new cases of multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, he said.
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