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Cincinnati mayor declares a state of emergency as Covid-19 leads to fire department staffing shortage

<i>Andrew Cenci/Bloomberg via Getty Images</i><br/>
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Cenci/Bloomberg via Getty Images

By Amir Vera and Laura Studley, CNN

An increase in Covid-19 cases in Cincinnati has led to staffing shortages in the fire department, a city spokesperson said Wednesday.

“There are 27 firefighters out with Covid-19 right now and an additional 20 who are out sick. There are 774 firefighters total on staff,” said spokesperson Yasmin Chilton.

As a result, Mayor John Cranley has declared a state of emergency to help appease the shortage. The declaration will allow the city manager to take “any steps necessary” to make sure the fire department is staffed adequately, including canceling vacations and implementing mandatory overtime, Chilton said.

The declaration came at the request of Fire Chief Michael A. Washington Sr., the mayor said in a statement, and states that if the staffing goes unaddressed, it would “substantially undermine” first responders’ readiness levels.

The mayor’s declaration comes as Covid-19 cases across the nation continue to spike to record levels. Doctors expect the holiday coronavirus surge, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, to get worse after New Year’s Eve. The average number of daily US Covid-19 cases on Tuesday reached 265,427 — a new pandemic high, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

In Cincinnati, there have been 656 new cases as of Wednesday, bringing the total case number to 44,595, according to data from the city’s Covid dashboard.

“The rise in cases has created staffing challenges for the fire department; however, public safety and the delivery of basic services remain our top priority,” Cranley said.

CNN has reached out to the Cincinnati Fire Department for comment.

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CNN’s Holly Yan and Aya Elamroussi contributed to this report.

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