COVID-19 affects eight of 20 firefighters in Prince Rupert, British Columbia

VANCOUVER – More than half of firefighters in Prince Rupert, British Columbia who were on sick leave this week are at the forefront of a wave of workers who are expected to fall ill from COVID-19.

VANCOUVER – More than half of firefighters in Prince Rupert, British Columbia who were on sick leave this week are at the forefront of a wave of workers who are expected to fall ill from COVID-19.

Firefighters, police and teachers are among those making contingency plans in case a significant number of employees become ill as COVID-19 cases increase due to the Omicron variant.

British Columbia provincial health worker Dr Bonnie Henry warned this week that businesses, schools and healthcare facilities could lose up to a third of their staff due to the rapid spread of the disease. variant.

Professional Firefighters Association president Gord Ditchburn said Thursday that the new variant affects firefighters in communities across the province.

“It is having an impact, but we are mitigating that by having additional staff available. Departments meet their staffing needs in a variety of ways, either by using volunteers or by working overtime,” Ditchburn said in a statement. interview.

The city of Prince Rupert said in a statement that five members returned to work on Thursday, leaving eight of the 20 firefighters still isolated from COVID-19.

He said the department manages, but while he can’t resolve serious incidents with his level of staff, he has an agreement with the nearby Port Edward Volunteer Fire Department to help.

The RCMP said it also expects an increase in the number of employees requiring sick leave or time off due to exposure to the virus in British Columbia.

Sgt. Chris Manseau said in an email that the department is discussing the possibility of shifting resources to ensure that appropriate staffing levels are maintained.

“Units have been urged to review their business continuity plans to ensure that processes and procedures are in place to maintain essential service levels where human resources are significantly reduced,” he said. .

The RCMP also has a “surge capacity” and can draw resources from across the province when needed.

School attendance was phased in across the province, with a full return to in-person learning starting January 10.

Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, said teachers are using this week to plan what will happen if there is a “functional closure” of schools caused by a staff shortage and they are forced to go back to online learning.

“We just don’t have enough on-call replacement teachers to replace people when they are away. We don’t have enough in non-pandemic times, we certainly don’t have enough in pandemic times. “said Mooring. .

She calls on the province to prioritize booster shots for teachers, provide N95 masks for educators and ensure that proper air filters are installed in schools to avoid closures.

“We hear from the province and the provincial health office that schools are a top priority to stay open and yet we continue to see a reluctance to put in additional safety measures that not only make sense but would be easy enough. to do, ”she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 6, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Brieanna Charlebois, The Canadian Press

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