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Omicron hitting City of Calgary staff and impacting city services

Calgary recreation services are facing the brunt of impacts caused by a growing number of Covid-19 cases among employees.

And, according to the city, the Calgary Police Service has its highest case count since the start of the pandemic.

The city provided an update on how they’re handling the latest Omicron-driven wave of the pandemic on Wednesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, the province provided the latest update on how they’re handling a spike in Omicron cases.

According to Cameron Nicolson with the city’s environmental safety management system, between 25 and 50 employees each day are calling in sick. Those workers are being tracked by location and the city is reducing potential transmission through cleaning.

The staffing issues have hit recreation services hard, according to Calgary Emergency Management Agency Chief Sue Henry.

Winter swim lessons and playschool have been cancelled until Jan. 10. Public skate times have also been cancelled at all locations aside from the Village Square and Southland Leisure Centres.  More information on facilities can be found here.

“Calgary recreation continues to actively monitor the impact that Omicron is having on staffing levels at all of the rec facilities and programs and is committed to keeping registrants and the public informed of any changes to services as they advance,” Henry said.

Calgary police redeploying officers

According to Henry, the CPS has the highest number of Covid infections among their employees since the start of the pandemic.

She said in order to minimize disruptions of emergency services, the CPS has redeployed officers from other areas to support front line workers.  With school out, School Resource Officers (SROs) are covering more than half of the front-line spots, according to CPS. Other areas are also contributing.

“With this redeployment plan, and as things currently stand, members of the public can rely on the fact that if they are in crisis, Calgary police will have the resources to support them,” Chief Henry said.

Henry said that the impact will be seen in proactive community policing, youth interventions and the increased length of investigations.

The Calgary police told LiveWire Calgary they have 36 members with confirmed Covid cases. In addition, there are 35 with symptoms or are suspected of having Covid.  Of the 36 confirmed, 33 of those members are fully immunized.

“It’s kind of all over the service. It is no one place, but certainly, the frontline gets hit the hardest. They have the highest contact with the public,” said CPS spokeswoman, Emma Poole.

Currently, nearly 94 per cent of CPS employees are fully vaccinated, they said.

Both Henry and Poole said Calgarians can help by using the CPS online reporting system for non-urgent incidents.

On Wednesday, Winnipeg’s Chief of Police said that they’ve declared a state of emergency because of a rampaging Omicron among their ranks. There they’ve had to redeploy more than 80 personnel.

In Calgary, 71 CPS members are off, out of roughly 2,200 sworn officers. That’s roughly 3.2 per cent of their workforce.

City actions to prevent spread among employees

Nicolson said they are working through rapid test kits provided by the province and have ordered more. They’ve been used to test unvaccinated City of Calgary employees. They’re being tested twice a week.

Many of the newly delivered tests are being distributed to critical services, Nicolson said.

The City of Calgary does have a contingency in place should essential services be impacted by Omicron. An example would be a snowplow driver who could work with minor symptoms alone in a truck.

Right now, because it’s not part of their current vaccination policy, the City of Calgary is not tracking employees with booster shots. The booster shots are widely recognized as reducing both the severity of symptoms and length of transmissibility.  

The mobile vaccination units will continue to be used around Calgary.

The city reminded Calgarians that the vaccination passport and the face coverings bylaws are still in effect.