City of Saskatoon outlines plans to maintain essential services during latest wave of COVID

The City of Saskatoon is providing more information on the safety protocols essential services have put in place to avoid closures during the latest wave of COVID-19.

In a report to councillors, the city explained how essential services such as the city’s sewage treatment plant, fire department and highways department are working to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

According to the city, since Jan. 1, 202 city employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and had to self-isolate.

In total, 64% of all positive COVID-19 cases among municipal workers since the start of the pandemic have occurred since the start of 2022.

While the number of sick people is still less than 5% of the total workforce, many departments are wary of the highly contagious nature of Omicron and the danger of its rapid spread.

Saskatoon Water has implemented additional physical distancing measures and restricted all non-essential meetings.

Meanwhile, the Saskatoon Fire Department is closely monitoring staffing levels, which includes the use of overtime to ensure there are enough personnel available.

Road crews are now holding virtual planning meetings and crew members are receiving text instructions from their managers rather than showing up for in-person meetings.

So far, there have been no interruptions of service due to illness. If there are any disruptions, the city said it will let the public know through service alerts.

According to the city, 94% of city employees have provided proof that they are vaccinated.

frame shelved

In addition, the city administration recommends setting aside its color-coded frame in the face of the Omicron variant.

Previously, a color-coded framework was in place that could trigger restrictions such as the closure of recreation centers or city hall if Saskatoon’s test positivity rate and average weekly cases reached a certain level.

However, at a special council meeting on January 10, councilors agreed not to introduce any new restrictions, saying they believed this would not lead to significant reductions in the number of cases.

Now that the province has changed its testing policy, where someone who tests positive on a rapid test no longer needs to take an official PCR test, the administration has estimated that the numbers on which the framework were no longer reliable.

“This change impacts the underlying framework data, specifically the seven-day average of weekly cases, the test positivity rate, and the seven-day reproduction rate,” the report read.

“The use of rapid antigen tests in Saskatchewan has also increased significantly, and data from these tests are not formally collected and reported at this time.”

The administration recommends that the city follow provincial health orders and regularly consult with local medical officers of health.

Return to work delayed

City councilors will also discuss the City of Saskatoon’s plan for returning employees to the office.

The current plan is to keep people already working from home out of the office until April 1.

Previously, the city had considered bringing the workers back by February 1, although that plan was scrapped due to the Omicron variant.

The new plan calls for workers to gradually return to office work until March.

About 25% of the city’s workforce works from home.

Additionally, the administration is recommending that in-person board and committee meetings also be postponed to April 1, though the board can resume in-room meetings as early as March 7.

All employees and councilors must provide proof of vaccination or a negative test result within 72 hours of any in-person meeting.

The reports will be presented at Monday’s Governance and Priorities Committee meeting.

Michelle J. Kelley