As Colorado sees record-high coronavirus cases spurred by the highly contagious omicron variant, about 5% of staff for the City of Littleton is currently infected and in quarantine.
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As Colorado sees record-high coronavirus cases spurred by the highly contagious Omicron variant, about 5% of staff for the City of Littleton is currently infected and in quarantine, according to City Manager Mark Relph.
“We have a concern here, I certainly do, just about the continuous operation of the City of Littleton,” Relph told city council during a Jan. 5 meeting.
In an interview with Colorado Community Media, Relph said that the 5% of staff in quarantine accounts for about 20 people across various departments including police, public works, building and planning.
The virus’s spread has led to several city departments pivoting to virtual-only services, including city council, which held a virtual meeting Jan. 5 and will continue to do so for at least one more meeting, according to Relph.
Along with COVID, the city is also seeing unusually high vacancies across its departments, something Relph attributed to pandemic burnout that has swept workforces across the country.
“We’re not immune to 'the great resignation,' as they call it,” he said, adding that about 10% of staff positions currently remain unfilled, about double the amount of openings the city is accustomed to.
“We’re a pretty thin organization,” Relph said.
The lack of staff could create problems for desperately needed services, such as snow removal, Relph said. If the situation fails to improve, the city manager may be forced to use emergency powers to bring on other staff to fill those jobs.
But that, he said, would be a last resort, as it would require people to push off other responsibilities as they doubled up on work. In the case of snow removal, it could even mean giving people the task who have no experience in training or plowing. Still, Relph said, the city would provide its services no matter the case.
“One way or another the snow’s got to be plowed,” he said.
The news of rapidly rising cases struck a chord with council members during Jan. 5’s meeting who urged the public to get vaccinated if they have not already.
“There is significant evidence that not only the double-vaccination of an initial dose but the booster shot specifically are protecting those who are obviously most vulnerable and protecting those from getting breakout cases,” said Councilmember Stephen Barr, who represents Littleton’s District 3.
Barr said he’s also been in talks with Robert Reichardt, board president for Littleton Public Schools, about the district’s need for staffing amid the COVID surge.
“They are bare-bones right now with regards to staffing,” Barr said, adding that the district is reporting a lack of bus drivers and lunch staff as well as teachers and substitutes.
While the pandemic is continuing to strain Littleton’s community from city staff to schools, Relph said there is hope that current cases will trend down in the coming weeks as health officials have predicted an approaching peak to the omicron wave.
But he acknowledged nothing is guaranteed as the situation is “changing almost every day.”
Littleton Mayor Kyle Schlachter urged residents to do their part as the city weathers yet another round of upheaval from the virus.
“Get vaccinated, get boosted, wear your masks in proper locations,” he said. “Think about not just yourself, but think about your neighbors, your friends, your family, the whole community, and hopefully we can get through it that way.”
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