During a special meeting of city council on Monday, officials told councillors the risk posed by the SARS-CoV-2 virus was now critical, according to the city’s COVID-19 framework. It marks the first time the administration deemed the danger so dire.
And according to that framework the council should close city hall and recreation facilities and declare a state of emergency.
But the administrators believe those actions aren’t necessary.
“With the onset of Omicron and all that it brings, our focus is very much on the internal actions we’re taking from a staffing perspective, to do everything we can to ensure business continuity,” city manager Jeff Jorgenson said.
He explained that meant officials are working towards being able to provide core services, like garbage collection and clearing snow, with the expected staff shortages caused by people needing to isolate because have or were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
Saskatoon has roughly one third of all active cases in the province as of Monday, but officials said contact tracing shows the disease isn’t being spread at city facilities.
That means services can continue as they are now – people can continue to exercise without masks on, per provincial government regulations.
Responding to questions from councillors, recreation director Andrew Roberts said most city facilities had experienced less visits from residents and not many bookings for things like birthday parties.
The city’s emergency management director said city residents know how to stop the virus from spreading.
“While the next month will bring some challenges for the city and for our community, I think it is important to remember that we know what to do,” Pamela Goulden-McLeod told councillors.
She said people should continue to stay home when sick, should wear the best mask they have and should get tested when they have symptoms.
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And she said it appears Omicron will be less of a wave and more of a spike, with infections surging up and then dropping off quickly.
As such, she said she didn’t expect the city to experience the same plateau of high cases it experienced during the fourth wave.
Councillor Darren Hill proposed a motion for the city to start providing masks on buses again. Councillors voted it through unanimously, as well as a motion from Coun. Cynthia Block charging city facilities with using city communication channels to let users know when facilities are less busy.
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