CINCINNATI — City crews are working around the clock to treat roadways as snow and freezing temperatures continue.
“We started off the week pretreating the road,” said Jarrod Bolden, Cincinnati's superintendent of traffic and road operations. “We like to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. We had 12-hour crews start this morning at 7 a.m. Those drivers will stay with us until 7 p.m. Another group of drivers will start at 7 p.m. and work through the night.”
Bolden said COVID-19 should not cause any staffing issues for responding to Thursday’s snow.
“As it relates to this specific event, for today we have a complement of drivers so we are ready for whatever Mother Nature brings us today,” he said.
However, various city departments are reporting employees out sick with COVID.
“City employees across all departments are getting ill,” said City Manager Paula Boggs Muething, “but we are making every effort to ensure employees stay safe and city services aren’t impacted.”
According to data obtained by WCPO, more than 200 city employees were COVID-positive between Dec. 24 and Jan. 2. The City Manager’s Office had the highest positivity rate at 29%. Of its 17 employees, five were COVID-positive.
The fire department had a 4% positivity rate. Public services, which is the department responsible for treating roads and clearing snow, had 6% of its employees test positive.
To keep drivers healthy and on the roads, Bolden said the department encourages safe practices.
“That’s all we can do,” Bolden said. “We encourage social distancing, we encourage wearing masks. We also encourage them to just try and take care of themselves on a normal basis. When you’re doing 12-hour shifts, you have to be able to get the proper rest, you have to eat right and do the normal things you have to do to take care of yourself.”
In 2021, COVID did cause an issue for snow removal. During a January storm, 30% of city drivers were sidelined because of the virus. Bolden said it’s difficult to predict if that could happen again this year.
“There’s so many factors that go into a snow event because when you start looking at the amount of drivers you have to start considering how much is the snowfall, what’s the weather temperature, what’s the road conditions," Bolden said. "It’s hard to play the million scenario possible equation."
Several other agencies are experiencing staffing issues due to the pandemic. Both ODOT and the Campbell County Road Department are dealing with shortages. The Campbell County Office of Emergency Management warned drivers snow removal could take longer than normal.
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