Members of city council gathered Friday as the Lethbridge Emergency Advisory Committee to hear an update on COVID-19.
Director of community services Mike Fox said there are currently 59 active cases of COVID-19 within the city’s workforce, with the transit department and Lethbridge Police Service hit the hardest.
“It’s usually fire, EMS, police, transit — it’s the frontline people that are out dealing with people every day,” he said.
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Fox said the city’s approach as it faces the Omicron-fueled fifth wave of COVID-19 is to plan for the worst, but hope for the best.
“I think we’re just seeing the beginning of this wave in the province,” Fox said. “Our daily case count has just jumped in this area, but in the city we aren’t at the highest level that we’ve seen.”
According to Fox, the vaccination rate for city employees sits at about 90 per cent, with the other 10 per cent able to follow rapid testing protocol. The Enmax Centre, Lethbridge Airports, and fire and EMS are the only departments with mandatory vaccination requirements.
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Emergency preparedness manager Luke Palmer said service hasn’t been impacted at this point and the focus right now is on maintaining that business continuity.
“Our current situation is vastly different from our previous closure, so we need to make sure that we’re analyzing what’s different now and what has changed, and what is going to influence some of these decisions that might impact service,” Palmer said.
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Palmer said if a department does experience a particularly large outbreak, the city can request help from the surrounding area. Lethbridge is one of more than 30 communities included in the Southern Alberta Emergency Management Resource Sharing Agreement.
“We’re willing to help each other and it just creates more collaboration across the region,” Palmer said. “We generally share the same hazards — and luckily enough for us, COVID is global — so we’re all experiencing it at the same time, and we’re able to lean on one another.”
Palmer said the city engages in weekly discussions with the province and Alberta Health, and said Dr. Deena Hinshaw has told the city to anticipate at least 30 per cent of employees to be impacted by the Omicron variant.
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