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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — COVID is taking its toll on City of Oklahoma City employees, with 105 being reported as quarantined as of Friday’s COVID dashboard report that Free Press obtained through an open records request.

Out of that number, 40 are Oklahoma City Police employees. What part of that number are sworn officers and what part is made up of civilian employees is not broken out in the dashboard.

By comparison, the department with the next highest number of quarantined employees is Water Utilities, with 13.

But, some departments with little contact with the public have also been hit and are working short-handed. The office of the Municipal Counselor has one employee currently quarantined.

“The reality of what’s happening is that the virus is really penetrating through our organization,” said Public Information Officer Kristy Yager Friday. She told Free Press that City leadership is, “…incredibly concerned about our operations and about the health of our employees.”

Working with restrictions

The Friday dashboard (see at end) showed that 286 City employees are currently working with restrictions.

Because firefighters literally live together when they are on duty, COVID has taken a much more dramatic long-term toll. Several firefighters have died from COVID since the pandemic began in 2020.

Currently, the Fire Department has a dramatically higher number of employees “working with restrictions” due to the disease than any other department.

The dashboard for Friday showed that the Fire Department has 241 employees currently working with restrictions. The next highest department is the Police Department that has 25 working with restrictions.

Risk Management

Yager told us that the City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Risk Manager, Assistant Risk Manager, Emergency Manager, and others held a virtual town hall meeting for employees Thursday in which they laid out the developing situation that could get worse.

City Manager Craig Freeman asked employees to do a few things to try and mitigate the spread of sickness within City government:

  • If you feel sick, do not come in to work. “That’s the number one thing, and we’re seeing people come into work. And they say, oh, I’ve got just a cold, or it’s an allergy, and it ends up being Coronavirus,” said Yager.
  • If you feel bad, get tested and don’t come back to work until COVID free, Yager said.
  • Freeman has given department directors the ability to allow employees who can to telework to do so. But, so many City employees do work where remote work is not a possibility.
  • Employees are being asked to wear a mask, especially when they are in groups.
  • In-person meetings should be avoided as much as possible in favor of virtual meetings.
  • “We also offer our employees, their household members and our contractors, the opportunity to get vaccinated through the city,” said Yager. “The fire department has vaccination pods every Thursday and Friday,” for city employees.
  • “And, we also are coordinating testing for people who want us to help them with that,” Yager said.

Monitoring

The City has a medical monitoring unit that has been tasked with tracking the health of City employees for the last two years and is a separate operation from the employee clinic that the City provides.

“We have nurses on staff and have had for several years now because of COVID that we’re staffing up even more now,” said Yager. “The nurse will talk to them about what their exposure looks like, how they feel, …, what was going on with that person and then determine whether they needed to be tested or watch for symptoms, or mask. …they’ll give advice or directions and guidance based on the whole picture.”

This is the dashboard report for Friday. Every day a new report is issued for monitoring.

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