Municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula have taken several steps to reduce the effects of the Omicron variant on municipal resources and operations.
Britt Burnham, Community Services Manager for Central Saanich, said their main goals are to protect the safety and productivity of all staff, while mitigating disruption to municipal operations.
“We offer remote work options, staggered shifts and make sure the teams are structured in a way that we have support,” she said. “In addition, we have a COVID safety plan that includes physical distancing, masking protocols, enhanced cleaning, and daily health checks.”
The municipality also encourages the population to use online services and to make an appointment to access the services of the municipal hall, the fire station and the police station. “To ensure the safety and staffing of first responders, stations will be closed to the public for the time being,” she said.
Randy Humble, Sidney’s chief administrative officer, said the municipality’s first priority is to ensure a safe workplace and reduce the transmission of COVID-19, which also reduces the potential for absenteeism due to illness or mandatory self-isolation.
“For the past two years, the city has taken precautions through a COVID-19 safety plan and a communicable disease plan that reduces close contact between employees,” he said. Examples include staff traveling alone in vehicles, meeting virtually rather than in person, and wearing masks when away from individual and remote workstations, he added.
“With the current spike in cases due to Omicron, some staff have resumed working remotely, where they can continue to perform their duties,” Humble said. “The (municipality) has updated its continuity plans to ensure that municipal services are prioritized if a large number of employees are absent due to illness or mandatory self-isolation.”
In North Saanich, the municipality’s goal is to continue to provide residents with the normal level of service, said Erik Lambertson, communications and engagement manager.
The municipality has updated its work-from-home policy in light of Omicron and will assess requests to allow employees to work from home when possible in these unique circumstances, he added.
“We are in the process of updating our existing COVID workplace safety plan and will post the updated version (on the municipality’s website) as soon as possible,” Lambertson said.
As for public meetings, North Saanich is limiting the number of public attendees to its Jan. 17 board meeting to six “out of an abundance of caution,” with minimal staff attendance. At least four council members must be present, with the others logging in remotely.
In Sidney, the council chamber is closed to in-person public participation until further notice, but there are still opportunities to provide written or electronic submissions, or join meetings via Zoom with pre-registration.
Central Saanich is still making repairs after sustaining water damage to its council chambers, so all public meetings and hearings are being held virtually and live streamed on the district’s website.
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