Maddox: City Missing 75 Firefighters, 86 Police Officers
In a wide-ranging public address to the city Thursday morning, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox shared data showing that 75 of the city's firefighters and 87 of its police officers are on leave or unavailable due to COVID-19 quarantine protocols and other factors, but assured citizens that "every post remains manned" in spite of the absences.
Maddox shared a graph that showed 61 TFR personnel were on leave either due to a confirmed case of the coronavirus or direct exposure to someone sick. With an additional 14 firefighters either on a different kind of leave or still in training and unavailable, the department is operating with just 76.72% of its full manpower.
"Certainly when you have these types of impacts on your organization, you have to focus on what's the most important and then work outwards from there," Maddox said. "That being said, our team is going to do everything they can to continue to deliver at a high standard that meets our standard of excellence, every single day."
Additionally, the Tuscaloosa Police Department has 26 personnel absent because of COVID-related factors and another 61 in training or on vacation, leaving them without 87 officers Thursday.
Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue has more than 250 personnel on staff, though, and the minimum staffing requirement per shift is 59 firefighters, so Maddox said he is confident in their current ability to respond properly to every call.
Maddox said at present, no city services are heavily impacted by absences, except its public services department, where 85 total employees were absent Thursday and 55 positions in the department are currently unfilled as a cost-saving measure.
Even there, Maddox said, the biggest risk is the delay of trash or recycling collection by a day or two.
While the city is short-staffed and COVID-19 cases continue to rise, though, Maddox announced a temporary suspension of the city's Holidays on the River at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater until at least December 10th.
Lastly, Maddox expressed concerns about the spike in new COVID-19 over the last several weeks because unlike similar surges after Labor Day or Independence Day, these new cases are not attributed to any kind of widespread holiday travel -- the impact of Thanksgiving and the Iron Bowl is yet to be felt.
"These increases are not coming from a hot spot. These increases are coming throughout the Tuscaloosa community," Maddox said. "We all have to do everything that we can to realize that you are the most important difference in protecting yourself, your family, and your community."
Maddox concluded by saying his next steps would include his continued communication with DCH to ensure the healthcare system is not overwhelmed, taking care of the city employees, and ensuring that essential services continue as normal.
Watch the mayor's full 22-minute update below.
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