CINCINNATI — The surging omicron variant has put a dent in Ohio and Kentucky's roster of snow plow drivers.
Matt Bruning, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the agency usually hires 500 seasonal workers in the winter to cover snow removal. This year they've filled only 75 percent of those jobs.
"Those seasonal workers will supplement full-time employees and auxiliary plow drivers," Bruning said. "The auxiliary plow drivers are ODOT employees who do other things throughout the day, but have a Commercial Driver's License and can jump in a plow truck if needed to help out."
In Campbell County, Kentucky - staffing shortages may lead to a delay in clearing the roads, according to multiple county offices.
"It just may take longer than usual," a Facebook post from the County Court said.
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6 is responsible for 1,800 lane miles of roadway and have 62 trucks available to clear roads. Several of those trucks concentrate on I-75 and I-71 between Buttermilk Pike and the Brent Spence Bridge, including the "Cut in the Hill."
To prevent staffing issues due to COVID-19 cases, KYTC has hired interim crew members in case someone is sick.
According to KYTC, 5 percent of their drivers are out with COVID-19.
Bruning said one major benefit to being a snow plow driver in a pandemic – it's a socially distanced profession. Workers plow roads for 12 hours and they're alone in the cab of a truck.
Bruning also said ODOT has staggered crews in garages to keep spread to a minimum.
"If there was a COVID positive, it wouldn't take the entire garage offline," Bruning said. "It would only impact a small group of people."