Toronto to Redeploy Hundreds of Staff to Protect Critical Services from Omicron Threat

The City of Toronto will redeploy hundreds of staff as it seeks to maintain essential services during a worsening fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a press release issued Wednesday morning, the city said it “expects a high number of unplanned staff absences due to illness and COVID-19 isolation requirements” and has already begun redeploying some employees “in support of critical needs and essential services.”

The city says many of the hundreds of redeployed employees were called into the same jobs during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020, when there were also concerns about continuing services due to a high volume of COVID-19 cases.

The situation, however, could prove much more difficult for employers this time around, with Ontario now routinely reporting more than 10,000 new cases a day amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

“The city continues to be nimble and responsive to ensure Toronto residents and businesses are safe, vigilant and informed. These measures will help us slow the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus,” said City Manager Chris Murray. in the release.

“We know this variant is causing absenteeism across all sectors and organizations as it spreads and we are deploying our incredible Toronto Public Service to focus on maintaining essential and critical services and ensuring Toronto remains a world leader in the fight against the pandemic.

The City of Toronto had planned to fully reopen City Hall and its Civic Centers in January as part of a broader return to the office for employees who had been working remotely since the pandemic began.

But he was forced to put those plans on hold earlier this month as the Omicron variant quickly spread across the province.

In addition to redeploying some staff, the city says it will also close its non-essential in-person counter services from January 4 to “further protect” staff who can perform remote work or be made available. to support critical and essential redeployment efforts.

Meanwhile, the use of rapid antigen tests to screen personnel is being expanded to include some essential services, including police, fire, paramedics, water and public health.

Previously, rapid tests were mainly used to screen staff in sectors with legislative testing requirements, such as long-term care homes.

The city’s action comes a day after Vaughan announced it was closing its city-run fitness centers and pools due to understaffing and moving most of its libraries to pickup. curbside only.

“As we face the threat of the Omicron variant, the City of Toronto is taking proactive steps to ensure the continuity of essential and critical city services that residents rely on, with the high levels of service that Torontonians have come to expect. “, Mayor John Tory said in the statement.

“We remain committed to responding to the Omicron variant and protecting the health of Toronto residents. Throughout the pandemic, Toronto Public Service employees have been working to respond to the virus and its variants. My continued and sincere thanks go out to all of them, and I salute their dedication to supporting essential and critical municipal services during the holiday season and beyond. »

Michelle J. Kelley