The Vancouver Park Board (VPB) announced that it is delaying the annual opening of its five outdoor pools and will “not immediately provide lifeguards” at its beaches, as it conducts a “thorough review” of how to protect swimmers and staff from the risk of COVID-19.
“The impacts of COVID-19 on our daily life and recreation habits have been difficult for many in our community and we understand this is not welcome news for Vancouver,” said VPB Director of Recreation Daisy Chin.
However, “public safety is our top priority and unfortunately, we are not in a position to open this weekend.”
For decades, the Park Board has signalled the return of summer each May long weekend by opening outdoor pools at Second Beach, Kitsilano Beach, New Brighton Park, Maple Grove Park, and Hillcrest Aquatic Centre and providing lifeguards at public swimming beaches in the city.
The VPB said that along with other municipal outdoor pool operators, it is awaiting the release of new operating guidelines from Lifesaving Society Canada to help guide revised procedures to safely support swimmers at both pools and beaches during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Society’s report-back is expected at the end of May and will include new procedures for lifeguards to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19 during rescues, including new in-water rescue techniques, modified first aid and resuscitation protocols, and the proper use of personal protective equipment.
Once a feasible revised operating plan is developed and approved, the VPB said it will “move swiftly” to hire and train staff and ready outdoor pool facilities.
Vancouver beaches have remained open during the pandemic and will continue to be open this weekend. The major change, however, is that lifeguards will not be on duty and rafts at English Bay, Jericho, Kitsilano, and Locarno beaches will not be installed.
The Park Board typically provides lifeguards at its nine beaches for 16 weeks during the summer, staffing them from 11 am to 8 pm.
New signage will be present at the beaches indicating that swimmers enter the water at their own risk.