Here's why pandemic is to blame for lifeguard shortage in Santa Rosa

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Saturday, June 19, 2021
Here's how pandemic caused a lifeguard shortage in Santa Rosa
North Bay recreation centers are hiring lifeguards due to shortage impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- You may have heard many stories, by now, about unfilled jobs as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, but it took a heat wave to reveal this one.

There is a widespread shortage of lifeguards.

"I was surprised when we could not recruit enough staff," said Don Hicks, who runs aquatics programs for the City of Santa Rosa.

RELATED: California's reopening marred by employee shortage

"They just were not motivated to come back and do lifeguarding whatsoever," said Ashey Simmons, a lifeguard who did return.

The shortage is impacting recreation. On a normal day in a typical heat wave, Santa Rosa's Ridgway and Finley pools might accommodate 1,000 swimmers. "Maybe 400 we can let in," said Hicks with frustration.

The problem stems from COVID-19, he said. The pandemic reduced training and, because many of the pool users are unvaccinated children, that has also kept some people away.

RELATED: Bay Area heat wave: Here are some of the best ways to save power during a Flex Alert

Consequently, the lifeguard shortage has made swimming competitive for people even before they get into the pool. "You have to sign up two weeks in and be on line at 8a.m. on a Friday every other Friday, " said Don Powers, who likes to swim laps.

"I have to make those reservations weeks in advance," added his friend Patty McCabe-Price. "Now we share lanes, and get them for only an hour. "

Hardships also apply to parents seeking lessons for their kids. "There is a waiting list," lamented Jennifer Bloom.

"I don't think the kids are working as hard as when they were younger," suggested her mother, Susan Arsenault. "I would think this would be a great summer job."

RELATED: Bay Area to reach highest temperatures of year so far

Being a life guard in Santa Rosa starts at $16 an hour.

If you have the desire and the skills, Santa Rosa Parks and Recreation would love to hear from you.