Region of Waterloo ready to redeploy staff to keep essential services running

WATERLOO REGION — The Region of Waterloo says it is ready to reassign staff to ensure the continuity of essential services such as water treatment and garbage collection, even if Omicron hits the workforce hard.

“Staff may be redeployed to maintain essential service levels for residents,” in areas such as homeless shelters, Sunnyside long-term care home, Grand River Transit, garbage collection, paramedics and water services, the region said in a news release Friday.

At present, “there are minimal impacts to services,” the region said. But it has contingency plans in place in case there are a high number of unplanned staff absences caused by the spread of the highly transmissible variant of Omicron.

Omicron, which is now the dominant variant in Ontario, has caused problems in some communities as large numbers of essential employees are forced to self-isolate because they are sick, self-isolating with symptoms or because they are a household contact of someone with the virus. .

Winnipeg’s police chief declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after 170 staff were absent due to COVID, saying the force faces “real challenges ahead.” Toronto has temporarily closed 44 library branches and is dispatching firefighters to low-priority calls to release paramedics for calls involving serious injury or transport to hospital.

The Region of Waterloo, which has about 3,000 full-time employees, says it will provide advance notice of any service disruptions where possible.

Michelle J. Kelley