It’s hard to believe that we’re already to Memorial Day weekend. Looks like sunny skies for the most part, some surf and a bit windy, but overall, nice weather.

It’s a little bittersweet this year because this is usually the end of our “hell week” where we have a large mass casualty exercise, the “night swim” final physical challenge followed by food and a get-together and an all-staff meeting.

Because we’re committed to not encouraging gatherings, maintaining social distancing, etc., we’ve made the difficult call to not hold those events, canceled our Junior Lifeguard Program for the summer and are not hosting our annual barbecue fundraiser for the first time in more than two decades.

These are part of our culture and traditions, so for us, it’s a big loss. But we also know it’s not just about modeling the behavior we hope the general public will observe when visiting Galveston and the Texas beaches. It’s also the idea that if COVID-19 spreads through our staff and takes a significant number of us out of commission, we won’t be able to protect people that use the beaches.

So, we’ve made these tough decisions with the knowledge that we need to focus on our primary purpose, and we’ll resume these activities that are part of us and the other groups that use, protect and enjoy the beach when the time is right.

With the bad, as always, comes the good. I mentioned all the masks people made for us last week. This week a wonderful woman named Joanne who is a “friend of the Sunflower Bakery” brought us gift cards, so each lifeguard on our staff could have a nice meal at a local business. People’s capacity for good when things get tough is just humbling.

If you’re one of the several hundred thousand we’ll see on the beach this weekend, remember to be safe while you’re out having fun. Specifically, swim near a lifeguard, stay far from the rocks, avoid swimming at the ends of the island, don’t swim alone, obey warning signs and flags, take precautions for the heat and sun, remember alcohol and water don’t mix, watch your children closely, and — for non-swimmers and children especially — wear a lifejacket when in or around the water.

If you’re not sure about anything, check with the lifeguard. All hands will be on deck, so we’ll have really good coverage at all the parks, groins and even on the West End including the San Luis Pass.

We have a new crew of lifeguards that just completed more than 100 hours of training who will be out working with the more experienced guards. And we’ll have yet another lifeguard academy start June 15, so be on the lookout for some new guards. Spread the word.

Happy holidays from all of us here at the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. If the beach is part of your plans this weekend, please swim safe, swim near a lifeguard and social distance. And have fun.

Peter Davis is chief of the Galveston Island Beach Patrol. The views in this column are Davis’ and do not necessarily represent those of the Beach Patrol, Galveston Park Board of Trustees or any other entity.

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