Lifeguard Lauren Cortright shares how Community Pool in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Keeps Staff and Patrons Safe

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Lifeguard Lauren Cortright shares how Community Pool in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Keeps Staff and Patrons Safe

July 17, 2020

As New Yorkers await the reopening of their pools, one may imagine getting right back into the water, sharing a lane with all of their friends, getting that two hour workout in… However, it is important to remember that before things go back to normal, there will be a transitional phase of reopening which may change the way an entire pool functions.


Guards Tommy and Allison practicing social distancing when talking with one another.

My name is Lauren Cortright, and as a lifeguard at a suburban outdoor Wisconsin pool, I can offer some insight on the restrictions which may be placed on pools during the first stages of reopening. I am lucky enough to work at one of the only pools in Milwaukee county which is open to the public this summer, and grateful that my place of work has put a lot of thought and planning into the protocol and regulatory process of remaining open during this pandemic. These restrictions, while sometimes  annoying, are aimed at protecting patrons and staff at my pool, which is the priority.

The most notable change which I have observed has been the reduction in capacity. Our pool has a normal maximum allowance of 1250 patrons, which can be quite a handful, in my opinion as the lifeguard charged with keeping them safe! This summer, we started with a capacity of 250 persons, about an 80% reduction.  Because of demand for these coveted spots, one must reserve a spot 24 hours in advance. There are three sessions of 1 ½ hours in which they can choose from, in addition to member only night swim, lap swim in the early morning, and tot time before noon. This reduction makes it easier for people to observe social distancing, and the time limited sessions ensure that more people will be allowed to use the pool in a day.

Between every session, everything is sanitized. Chairs the patrons used, the toddler playset, railings, lifeguard chairs… Anything that patrons have touched. This way, it will be completely sanitary before the next session is admitted. During a session, patrons are expected to stay six feet away. Lines are marked on the ground with blue dots, so children know where to stand when waiting for the diving board or slide so that they comply with this. Only one lap swimmer is allowed per lane – which I must say seems to frustrate patrons the most out of all the rules.

Lifeguards and staff also must comply with many new rules. When we arrive at work, after clocking in, we must complete a survey asking questions about our health status, known contact with others infected with covid, and a reminder to let our manager know if we begin to feel ill in the duration of our shift. We are required to wear a mask at all times, the exception being when we are on our guard stand.

Guards Sid and Emma wearing masks.

Here, there are cones signaling to patrons to stay six feet away when interacting with us.  We have to sanitize our lifeguard tubes and megaphones after every use, and all of our belongings cannot be kept in the break room… Which has also switched. In years prior, we took our breaks in a little office, no more than 15 ft by 8 ft… Which is cramped with 50 total lifeguards. This year we utilize the ‘grand hall’, normally used for parties and gatherings, which aren’t taking place inside this year.

During our hourly and lunch breaks, we must remain six feet away from one another and no two people are allowed at the same table.


Guards Maddie and Liz sitting apart from one another on their break

So while these regulations naturally come with plenty of drawbacks: frustrated patrons, limiting socialization with other guards, many new rules to remember in addition to all the ones we must already enforce… They ultimately mean that we can open our pool, which makes it all worth it. This pool is a huge part of – not just my summer as a lifeguard – but anyone on the pool crew, lap swimmers, and every family that makes this pool a staple place to go in the summer… Like I did when I was little! I am happy to be carrying the tradition on.


Lauren Cortright is a senior high school student at Wauwatosa East HIgh school, where she swims for the school’s team and co-heads the yoga team. She works teaching swim lessons and as a lifeguard in the summer, and in her free time she likes to bike around Milwaukee and sing (just for fun).

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