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National lifeguard shortage could affect up to nearly half of all public pools in U.S., American Lifeguard Association warns

Lifeguard shortage to impact summer swimming
Lifeguard shortage across U.S. will impact more than 100,000 pools this summer 02:51

As summer comes closer, cities around the U.S. are facing a labor crisis that will affect a season staple: swimming. The American Lifeguard Association said a national shortage of lifeguards could affect anywhere between one-third to nearly half of all 300,000 public pools in the U.S.

Jimmy Davis, the director of aquatics for Palm Beach County, Florida, said it's short about 30% of summer employees.

"We're not going to conduct the number of swim lessons we normally do and that's going to have a direct affect on our community and could potentially affect the number of drownings we see in our community," he told CBS News.

He said with the county down 15% of ocean lifeguards, some county beaches will be left unstaffed,

"We provide a public service to the community, it's imperative that we are there," Davis said.

The shortage is also affecting swimmers nationwide.

"It's actually a bit terrifying because I'm a weak swimmer," a group of beachgoers at Virginia Beach told CBS News.

The city of Boulder, Colorado, launched a "Be a Superhero" campaign to try and woo potential applicants. Austin, Texas, upped the pay for lifeguards and added up to $1,250 in bonuses due to having only about one-third of the lifeguards needed.

In Richmond, Virginia, Parks and Recreation will even teach the basics.

"We help you learn how to swim. If you need swimwear, we'll help you get swimwear," said Jerrod Booker, a recreation services supervisor there.

The pandemic can be partially credited for the shortage. Lifeguards have to go through certification classes and pay is a big factor - it can range from $10 to $15 an hour in many places, leading some to choose jobs that are better paying and more flexible. Many places also relied on temporary foreign workers to fill the gaps, but those visa programs are still backlogged.

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