City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

City of Fernie city hall. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

COVID-19 brings ‘significant challenges’ for City of Fernie in staffing

Residents can expect some service disruptions as COVID-19 runs through the community

Omicron has landed in Fernie with a crunch, with the City of Fernie announcing on Thursday (Jan.6) that is was experiencing “significant challenges in supplies, staffing, and contractors directly related to COVID-19.”

In a release, the city said that residents could potentially expect service disruptions in some areas.

“The case numbers in Fernie are very concerning, we are seeing Omicron spread quickly through the community,” said Mayor Ange Qualizza.

“We are in a unique situation as both a border community and a destination, so we need everyone to use all the layers of protection to keep themselves safe and help limit the spread. The next few weeks our organization is going to be challenged by COVID, but we are making sure our safety protocols are in place so we can continue to deliver services.”

According to the most recent data from the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), 211 new cases were detected within the Fernie Local Health Area (which covers all of the Elk Valley) in the week between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, representing a large spike in cases from previous weeks.

According to the city’s press release, all available staff will be on hand working to clear snow ahead of the winter snow event forecast for the region, with access to critical infrastructure and emergency services first priority.

“We ask for your patience as we do everything we can to complete priority routes with reduced staff and contractor support due to COVID. Downtown centre-plow windrows will be cleared as weather and staffing allows, likely on Monday (Dec. 10)”.

Scheduling and staffing for recreation facilities are also affected, and city staff are working with user groups on new requirements and changing restrictions. According to the city, it may have to modify or reduce hours, or even close facilities on short notice.

A city spokesperson said they did not yet have a timeline on when services would return to normal.

City Hall remains open for accepting and processing permits, applications and processing payments, with masks required for in-person attendance.

Qualizza said that it was important to consider the impact of the current spread of cases on local businesses as well.

“Please be mindful that many of our local businesses have also been impacted due to staff shortages, it has never been more important to practice patience, practice kindness and have empathy for anyone right now trying to operate in such a challenging time.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 case counts soar in the East Kootenay
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