Cornwall police had holiday ‘revolving door’ of sick, exposed workers

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The urge to get together over Christmas and New Year’s Day plus the rapid spread of Omicron is believed to have been the undoing for nearly three dozen Cornwall police employees.

Data shared at last week’s Cornwall Police Services Board meeting Thursday shows 38 employees were not able to report for work when asked for the three and a half weeks from just before Christmas until just after the new year (Dec. 19 to Jan. 12).

That’s just over 28 per cent of its 134 member workforce.

Police Chief Shawna Spowart says the number of employees out of commission, either because they caught COVID-19 or were in close contact to a positive case, started to spike around Dec. 27.

“That is quite consistent with what we’ve heard … approximately four days after the date of exposure people are starting to develop symptoms. That would have reflected the gatherings that were happening on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.”

Spowart says they anticipated it would happen again five days after New Year’s Eve “and sure enough, we started to see that spike again.”

For general beat patrol, the most employees off on any one day was five or nearly 10 per cent of the community patrol. Some other departments with far fewer staff suffered more, such as the four member IT department when it had one employee off or 25 per cent of its staffing.

“It’s been a bit of a revolving door. We get people back and then we lose people,” the chief said.

During the three and a half weeks, the hardest hit departments have been uniformed patrol and dispatchers with nearly a third of their departments unavailable, followed by the detective’s office with just over a quarter of employees not able to work.

“We are managing and we have not any crisis in terms of our resource management to date. While there’s been a lockdown and while children have been out of school, what I have been communicating internally is that our single highest risk has been a workplace exposure,” Spowart said.

She says that could create “a critical state of affairs” but the police force has contingency plans in place to draw from other departments to boost front line policing if needed.

A graph from a presentation at the Cornwall Police Services Board meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022 shows the most employees off from either COVID-19 infection or exposure on any one day in the period between just before Christmas until a week and a half after New Year’s Day. (CPSB via Newswatch Group)