ATLANTIC CITY — As the resort reopens amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the city’s Beach Patrol chief urged residents and visitors Friday to swim only when lifeguards are on duty.
“Atlantic City was noticeably open again for the first time,” Beach Patrol Chief Steve Downey said, describing Thursday’s crowds as many of the casinos reopened. “By far, yesterday finally looked like we were open again.”
So far this season, there have been 202 ocean rescues, 120 beach EMT responses and 58 lost children reunited with their families on resort beaches, Downey said. Many of the rescues are happening when lifeguards are not on duty, he added, noting that lifeguards are on from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Last month, a 10-year-old girl was taken to the hospital after bystanders pulled her out of the ocean. Lifeguards were not on duty at the time.
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However, the patrol’s uptown and downtown after-hours emergency response teams began Wednesday and will run daily from 6 to 8 p.m. through August, he said.
“More than ever, it is imperative that they only swim when we’re on duty,” Downey said, noting that the coronavirus is an added risk. “We’re doing what everyone else is doing. We’re trying to limit our exposure.”
Beachgoers are generally following guidelines set by city officials for the beach, which include social distancing, he said. However, some are still crossing the cones and rope that cordon off lifeguard stands and boats to help lifeguards practice social distancing.
“These boats are iconic. People just want to take a picture no matter what you tell them,” he said. “Now, we’re open, we’re going to get people coming from other areas and we’re going to have to crack down.”
He said it’s been a challenge to sanitize equipment after beachgoers touch it, and the patrol is planning for crowds over Fourth of July weekend.
“When we’re on duty, people don’t die,” Downey said. “That’s a fact.”