Municipal services

Omicron causes staff shortages in municipal services: CEMA chief

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Staffing levels for municipal services ranging from recreation to policing are being squeezed by the surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, the head of the Calgary emergency management agency said on Wednesday.

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The sharp rise in cases has resulted in more illnesses and more absences among city staff, CEMA chief Susan Henry told a press conference at the city’s emergency operations center. . As the numbers change daily, officials estimate that between 25 and 50 employees make themselves sick every day.

“Citizens will already notice that some city departments have been affected by staff shortages due to COVID and these changes are expected to continue over the next few weeks,” Henry said.

The Calgary Police Department is also grappling with the highest number of COVID infections among employees since the start of the pandemic, Henry said.

Currently, 36 CPS members have tested positive for COVID-19 – of which 33 have been fully vaccinated – according to figures provided by police. 35 other CPS employees are in segregation awaiting test results.

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“Calgary Police have started redeploying officers from other areas of the organization to support frontline workers who were already stretched before this wave of COVID-19,” Henry said.

“There will be an impact on other services that are provided by Calgary Police, including proactive community policing, youth intervention and support services, as well as increased investigation times for certain offenses.

The city is encouraging Calgarians to use the CPS online reporting system for non-emergency incidents.

Rapid tests for municipal workers are also growing. Voluntary rapid tests are now provided to vaccinated city employees who work in providing essential services, the city said. Previously, only unvaccinated employees received rapid tests twice a week.

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The city’s occupational health and safety program director Cameron Nicolson said the city received a new shipment of more than 100,000 rapid tests on Tuesday.

Contingency plans are also in place to allow essential municipal workers who test positive for COVID-19 to continue working if they are feeling well enough; Nicolson said examples could include a mildly ill employee continuing to work in a vehicle clearing city roads, or water utility workers continuing to work in a control center even though they are mildly ill.

“Looking at the wastewater data from the University of Calgary, it’s pretty clear that many Calgarians are currently sick with COVID, possibly with the Omicron variant,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Wednesday.

“It’s a fast-spreading variant and it’s highly transmissible. It’s going fast, so we have to go faster. “

Winter swimming lessons and daycare programs have been postponed to January 10. Public skating hours have been canceled until further notice at all city-operated arenas except Village Square and Southland Recreation Centers.

The city is also expanding its mobile vaccination program. About 5,000 vaccines have been provided to Calgarians since the program began last year.

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Twitter: @mpotkins



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