Echoing Long Beach Island, about 25 members of Avalon’s beach patrol have been quarantining after a party in a house several guards shared in Stone Harbor led to at least one testing positive for the coronavirus, Capt. Murray Wolf said Monday.
Two guards experienced symptoms, said Matt Wolf, another beach patrol official and Murray Wolf’s son. Neither became seriously ill, he said.
“We’ve had a couple that have been symptomatic, but many are asymptomatic,” he said. “Nobody’s been seriously ill. We haven’t traced anything back to activities outside.”
Several beach patrols said Monday they had been grappling with coronavirus quarantines and cases stemming from after-hours socializing, and state officials said 35 cases had now been traced to the LBI party attended by lifeguards.
In Ventnor, Public Safety Commissioner Tim Kriebel said two groups of eight lifeguards had been quarantining in early July after two lifeguards tested positive. The contact was off the beach, he said. An additional three lifeguards are still out after displaying symptoms but testing negative, he said, and will return Tuesday.
In Ocean City, spokesperson Doug Bergen said one guard has tested positive, and two others are currently out as a precaution. A “small number of guards” have additionally been “in and out at different times,” Bergen said, because “the patrol has been cautious about requiring self-quarantine and testing” any time somebody has symptoms or has been in close contact with someone testing positive.
In Wildwood, one guard tested positive in June after contact with an ice cream shop worker, and his partner was also quarantined, said Commissioner Steve Mikulski. A second guard tested positive this month after leaving for the Merchant Marine, he said.
All the Avalon guards who had come into contact with those testing positive were put on a 14-day quarantine, Wolf said, prompting Avalon to hire 10 more to fill in on staffing.
Wolf said the borough had taken precautions with its beach patrol staffers, separating them on lifeguard stands and requiring masks, but that after hours were a different story.
“We don’t follow them at night,” Wolf said. “There was one party, we can track everything to it.”
Wolf said the borough was “doing everything right in terms of getting people off the stand.”
“One of them had it,” Wolf said. “Everybody that was with him or had been on the stand with him has to be out for 14 days.”
On Friday, officials in Harvey Cedars and Surf City said about two dozen members of their beach patrols who had been at a house party together had tested positive and were quarantining at home.
On Monday, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said local officials had so far identified “35 cases related to this common social gathering” attended by the lifeguards on Long Beach Island.
Harvey Cedars borough posted on its website that 17 of its lifeguards contracted the virus after attending a party in Surf City. And a dozen more lifeguards who patrol Surf City beaches also tested positive, the LBI health department director told WHYY on Friday.
The beach patrols have adapted to the reality of the pandemic, eliminating traditional morning meetings, and keeping guards separated on stands and distanced from people on the beach as much as possible. Last week, the patrols received the disappointing news that all the remaining lifeguard races were being canceled this year. The July races were canceled in June.
Wolf said Avalon was poised to make a run at Longport’s four-year streak of South Jersey championships, especially because some standout collegiate talent, like Stanford University swimming team captain Alex Boratto, were spending the summer in Avalon rather than training with their colleges.
Wolf said the quarantining guards were starting to return, which is helping staffing levels.
The 81-year-old beach patrol captain said neither he nor other supervisors had experienced any symptoms.
“We’re starting to get people back,” Wolf said. “It’s better now than it was last week.”
Elsewhere at the Jersey Shore, beach patrols with no cases or quarantining were being cautious.
North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said no cases or contact had been reported among his beach patrol members. “Believe me, I have been reminding the chief to remind the staff that indoor parties are NOT a good idea right now,” he said, via text message. “They seem to be listening.”
Longport Mayor Nick Russo said his beach patrol had also been free of any coronavirus positive tests or need for quarantines. Sea Isle City beach patrol chief Renny Steele said no members were currently on quarantine, but referred questions about the entire summer to city officials.
In Margate, Commissioner John Amodeo said that no cases had been reported and that the beach patrol had been adhering to a strict one-lifeguard-per-stand policy, and keeping distance from each other and from people on the beach.
“We rope off all the stands,” Amodeo said. “None of the public get within 15, 20 feet of the lifeguards.”