200 City of Edmonton employees off work with COVID-19

The City of Edmonton reported 200 of its employees are off work after testing positive for COVID-19 - and 51 of those are firefighters, about 4.5 per cent of the total 1,100 firefighters in Edmonton. 

Alberta government declares outbreak at fire department with 51 firefighters off duty

The City of Edmonton says it aims to maintain priority services like snow removal, transit and waste pickup while Omicron forces 200 employees off work. (Natasha Riebe)

The City of Edmonton says 200 of its employees are off work after testing positive for COVID-19, including more than 50 firefighters who are a part of an outbreak.

On Tuesday, the province said Edmonton Fire Rescue Services has an outbreak of COVID-19. According to the city, 51 firefighters have tested positive, representing about 4.5 per cent of Edmonton's 1,100 firefighters.

Outbreaks in non-healthcare workplaces are are listed when there are 10 or more cases, and if local public health has determined a need to declare an outbreak.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services says it's adjusting shifts to ensure they can respond to calls properly. 

Greg Rehman, president of the Edmonton Fire Fighter's Union, said he is concerned about the outbreak.

"They're our men and women that are getting this virus, I worry about their health and safety, No. 1," he said.

"And I also worry about the public's health and safety as well, because our men and women are dedicated to providing that service to them."

The city said it's concerned about the potential impact the highly transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19 will have on its employees.

"This is a fluid situation and these reported numbers are expected to change day-to-day," the city said in a news release. 

"Due to increasing COVID-19 cases across city departments, minor adjustments are being considered across all departments to continue delivering priority services to Edmontonians." 

The city is trying to keep critical and vital services going throughout the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and is adjusting work to deliver priority services, such as snow and ice removal, transit, waste services and emergency services, in times of disruption. 

The city did not announce specific service reductions Tuesday, saying the situation is fluid and that it will continue to re-evaluate should Omicron cases continue to disrupt staffing. 

The province recently changed the isolation requirements to five days for people with no symptoms and introduced an exemption for certain workplaces to bring workers back before their isolation period is complete, but the city said none of its essential workers are currently allowed to return to work before their isolation period is over.

"We will reevaluate that decision if and when it may be needed," the release said.