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Beach goers feel safe, but cautious as heat grips region

Dominion Park Beach in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Dominion Park Beach in Saint John, New Brunswick. Tim Roszell/Global News

As a pre-summer heat wave grips much of Atlantic Canada, beach goers are ready to hit their favourite spots to keep cool.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the look of that simple trip to the beach.

Rochelle Hebert brought her two sons to Dominion Park Beach on the west side of Saint John. She said water safety is paramount for her.

“Oh, very important,” she stated. “(The older son) does swimming lessons at the Aquatic Centre, so that’s why we bring our blanket close down here, just in case one of them ever fell or something, I’m right here sitting there just to catch them. Overall the water’s not too deep here, so that’s the other reason I like to bring them here.”

Others enjoying the heat say they are much more aware of their surroundings, like other people, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The consensus? We’re safe, as long as the crowds are small.

“I do (feel safe) because there’s not (people) many here,” said Loretta Boyle while enjoying a dip in the water with her granddaughter. “If it got crowded I would leave.”

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READ MORE: New Brunswick reports no new coronavirus cases Thursday, Zone 5 remains ‘orange’

Kathy Dryer and two coworkers took a lunch break at the beach.

“We bubble together at work,” she said, with a community face mask tucked under her chin. “Most people are here with their families and everybody’s sitting far enough away that I don’t feel unsafe.”

No lifeguards are on duty at the moment, but the city confirmed they will be soon.

“Saint John beaches are scheduled to open this summer, with signage in place to remind the public to use caution and follow all public heath guidelines,” said City of Saint John spokesperson Lisa Caissie in an email.

Quispamsis confirmed Thursday lifeguards will start at Gondola Point Beach on June 22.

At Parlee Beach in Shediac, lifeguards will wear masks when administering first aid, and will ask patrons to do so as well while receiving treatment. They are also using special air bags in lieu of direct mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

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Health officials concerned beach goers won’t follow guidelines
Health officials concerned beach goers won’t follow guidelines

Beach Captain Gregoire Cormier said water rescues are challenge.

“For the rescue, unfortunately, it’s something we couldn’t protect ourselves,” Cormier said. “The things that we try to do is be behind the person versus face-to-face. But unfortunately the masks don’t work very well in the water.”

Halifax Regional Municipality has delayed the start date of its lifeguards at 19 municipal beaches by about a week to July 6 to accommodate extra training related to COVID-19.

It’s a summer of change at the Canadian Red Cross as well. The pandemic has forced it to suspend its loan program for life jackets and personal flotation devices, or PFDs.

“You need to touch and feel to make sure that it fits the person properly” said Canadian Red Cross Atlantic spokesperson Allie Murchison. “Because of those social distancing and physical distancing restrictions we’re unable to do that.

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“We’re unable to see if those life jackets would properly fit a person.”