Saturday, August 13th, 2022

Cincinnati Declares State of Emergency Amid Fire Department Staffing Shortages


Cincinnati declared a state of emergency on Wednesday to help the city deal with labor shortages within the city’s Fire Department amid a spike in coronavirus cases and scheduled holiday vacations.

Mayor John Cranley said the surge in cases during the holiday season has led to staffing challenges for the department, which he called a “public danger” that would undermine the city’s ability to respond to fire emergencies. In recent weeks, businesses have expressed concern over labor shortages as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to tear across the nation, shattering case records and sidelining infected workers.

The 60-day emergency declaration will allow the Fire Department to “ensure full quality fire service in the coming weeks,” Mr. Cranley said in a statement. The move came after the mayor spoke with Michael A. Washington, the Fire Department chief, who requested the declaration. There are 27 firefighters out with Covid-19 and an additional 20 who are out sick, Yasmin Chilton, the mayor’s communications director, said in a statement. There are 774 firefighters total on staff.

The order temporarily suspends “applicable city rules or personnel policies to address the public emergency,” according to the declaration. That would allow the city manager to cancel vacations and implement mandatory overtime, Ms. Chilton said.

Hoping to prevent further disruptions to daily life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reduced the number of days that certain infected people should remain isolated to five days from 10. Americans leaving isolation must be free of symptoms and should wear a mask when near others for an extra five days.

Industries including air travel, food and retail welcomed the C.D.C.’s new guidelines, which representatives said would help relieve companies already struggling with labor shortages during the pandemic as more workers retire or stay out of the work force over fears of the virus. Virus-related staffing shortages have upended businesses, leading to thousands of canceled flights during the holiday season.

Unions have expressed concerns over the change in guidelines, warning that companies could rush employees with symptoms back to work and lengthen the course of the pandemic.

The nation’s record for daily coronavirus cases has reached new highs as the Omicron and Delta variants continue to spread. The seven-day average of new cases reached 267,305 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database.

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