The 2A Regional Transit Route pilot project will end after two years because of low ridership numbers. The route linked Innisfail, Penhold, Springbrook and Red Deer. Advocate file photo

The 2A Regional Transit Route pilot project will end after two years because of low ridership numbers. The route linked Innisfail, Penhold, Springbrook and Red Deer. Advocate file photo

City of Red Deer will shorten transit hours because of increased staff illnesses

Other city services could also be impacted

The City of Red Deer is alerting residents that service interruptions will impact transit operations and could effect other municipal services with increase in staff illness.

City departments are being hit with rising rates of absenteeism — anywhere from three to 30 per cent of staff in various departments are off, mostly with flu-like symptoms that could be COVID, the municipality reported on Tuesday.

So far, departments are able to maintain service levels with the available staff, through shifting certain workers into other positions, or asking them to work additional hours. So far, transit is the only department that is seeing a service reduction.

But as illness rates among staff continue to rise, this may result in further interruptions to services over the coming weeks, states a release from the city on Tuesday.

Not everyone can be tested for COVID now, with tests being in scarce supply, so symptoms of a regular cold or flu and COVID can’t be distinguished. Therefore, any city staff member who experiences coughs or congestion must stay home and follow a city process, as well as provincial isolation requirements.

“Our priority is to have staff stay home when sick and take care of themselves until they’ve recovered fully, whether they have COVID-19 or not,” said Tara Lodewyk, interim city manager.

“As a municipality, we have the responsibility to maintain a certain level of critical services to the community, and as of today, there are service impacts to transit due to staffing shortages caused by illness. We continue to monitor the situation daily with all services we provide in the community.”

Starting Wednesday, transit will be operating on reduced service after 7:45 p.m. Monday to Saturday with the exception of the Route 1 Rapid Bus and Route 12 for Gasoline Alley connecting at Bower Mall.

Dynamic Shuttle Service will once again be offered beginning at 8 p.m., taking riders from Sorensen Station to their bus stop of choice within the city. There will be no impact to school routes or the Action Bus. Transit users are encouraged to visit the city’s website, the Transit app, or call 403-342-8225 to help plan trips.

To maintain critical city services, staff can be redeployed to other areas, temporarily. Where redeployment isn’t an option, staff members will be working extra hours to maintain critical services, such as Emergency Services, Water and Wastewater, and Electric Light & Power.

“While staff may need to work additional hours, we are also acutely aware that burnout can happen, and we need to protect our staff’s health – mental, physical and emotional,” said Lodewyk. “With increasing staff absences, we are continually monitoring what services are absolutely required, and how our staff can maintain them.”

The rising COVID cases in the community, as well as illness rates in the City of Red Deer is “alarming. We all need to do our part in reducing the spread to protect ourselves and safeguard our healthcare system,” said Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston.

“We can’t predict how this wave will impact each individual, so we all need to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves; stay home when sick, mask up in public places, sanitize, and get immunized. It’s not just a one-step process, it’s several simple steps that work together to keep us safe, and it’s up to all of us to do it.”

If service interruptions occur, information will be available through a variety of city sources. There will be updated information on the city’s website at www.reddeer.ca/know. The city is encouraging all Red Deerians who have not signed up to receive city COVID-19 updates to sign up through Notify Red Deer. Visit www.reddeer.ca/notify for information on registering and opting into specific notifications.

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