Without lifeguards, lots of Salt Lake pools are currently no swim zones
Several public swimming pools across Utah have limited hours or haven't opened due to lifeguard shortages.
It’s part of a nationwide trend that’s affecting about a third of pools across the country.
The shortage can be linked to low wages, said Joshua Reusser, communications manager for Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation.
“The pandemic has changed the way we do a lot of things. It's an employee's market right now,” he said. “So we've increased our wages. Lifeguard wages haven't really kept up with rates, you know like regular after-school type jobs. So we've increased our wages with our county to try and accommodate that.”
Salt Lake County recently raised their hourly pay to $15.55 after paid training is complete.
The county has opened four of its nine outdoor pools and will stagger the openings of the others within the next month.
And it’s not just outdoor pools. Kellis Flitton, the aquatic coordinator for the Sorenson Multi-Cultural Center, said their indoor pool has been closed since March due to no lifeguard staff.
He said that’s caused a disruption for people living in Salt Lake’s Glendale neighborhood who are low-income and rely heavily on the community pool for exercise, including senior citizens.
“There are some exercises that you can only really do in the water, especially if you're disabled or you have joint impairments or you're just not as physically abled body — especially for like our older patrons,” Flitton said. “The pool's a huge difference because the water is able to support their weight or their joints and allow them to get some exercise regularly in a safe way, where they're not going to be injuring themselves.”
It’s also the time of year when people are looking for ways to cool off and a pool is one of their few options.
“It's summertime, the kids are out of school, they want to go to the pool. This is probably the closest pool for a lot of them,” he said. “The ability for them to be able to come in [and swim] is something that I want to be able to set for them.”
Keeping swimmers safe is a top priority and Flitton hopes to hire six more lifeguards and reopen the pool by the end of the month.
Reusser said they have about 150 people who are in the process of completing lifeguard training which will hopefully help them return to normal hours.
If you are interested in becoming a lifeguard, Reusser and Flitton are encouraging people to apply on the county website.