Surrey fire chief Larry Thomas says there’s been some impact to the department with the recent influx of cases and variants.
“I’m just more concerned about the risks of the COVID variants spreading throughout the community, with Surrey being one of the hotspots,” Thomas told the Now-Leader Friday (April 9).
According to the BC Centre for Disease Control’s March 28 to April 3 local health area map, 1,254 cases were recorded in Surrey and another 135 were recorded in South Surrey/White Rock.
Meantime, there have been a total of 2,756 variants in the Fraser Health region, with 2,493 being the B.1.1.7 variant, 32 are the B.1.351 variant and 231 are the P.1 variant.
“There’s been some impact with our staff contracting COVID — not in the workplace — but when they’re off-duty, through their households and family connections, for example,” explained Thomas, “which requires them either to isolate because a family member has COVID or they get COVID from their family member and they’re off work.”
Between Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Fire Service in the last week, he said, there are eight confirmed cases that have resulted in 18 additional people being required to isolate for two weeks.
“So that has a long impact. Not only the ones that are sick, but the ones that potentially came into contact with someone,” said Thomas.
“Typically, they’ll be asymptomatic when they come to work and then find out they have COVID and then everyone they’ve worked with now needs to isolate.”
Thomas said he’s yet to hear any more news about the vaccine priority groups, which firefighters were included in, but Surrey firefighters are now being trained to help administer vaccines in Fraser Health.
“We’re hopefully going to hear something really soon, but I think that was part of the reason for my worries is that officially there had been no word yet or no announcement yet from the province,” he said.
“Again, with this kind of perfect storm with variants and easy transmission, or higher transmission rates, we’re just looking to hear about when the province is going to announce restarting their frontline worker immunization program.”
But he added the department isn’t looking “to be moved up the list.”
“We’re just looking for some certainty when this can start.”