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'Be Patient': As Storm Approaches, COVID Sick Calls Add To Snow Removal Staffing Shortages

MEDFORD (CBS) – Several communities in Massachusetts are dealing with COVID staffing issues ahead of a storm that could bring up to eight inches of snow to parts of the state Friday morning.

Sudbury's Public Works staff spent Thursday getting the town's storm operations center ready to fire up at midnight. But up to the last minute, there are questions about who will drive the plows.

"Now with the COVID, now we're running into major, major problems trying to fill our spots with employees that are calling out sick, and that's changing daily," said Sudbury Department of Public Works Director Daniel Nason.

The town already had signs out advertising its need for plow drivers. Nason says the staff is now down ten people.

"With less than half, we're going to be out there a lot longer. If we have a two-hour route, we're going to be out there for four-plus hours."

He said crews will hit every street Friday, but may not get to municipal parking lots and sidewalks until the weekend.

There are also roadside help-wanted signs up in Weston, and Medford residents have been warned with robo-calls.

"Be patient with all we have to do, all we're dealing with," said Medford Mayor Breanna Lungo-Koehn. "We're going to do our best, but there may be some delays in clearing the streets, more delays than there ever have been due to Omicron."

Medford declared a snow emergency that goes into effect at 2 a.m. on Friday. The department is currently understaffed due to COVID absences. Lungo-Koehn is asking people to stay off the roads as much as possible. In Medford, no parking is allowed on either side of main roads during the snow emergency. On secondary roads, parking is limited to the odd side of the street.

Those who are healthy and staffed, like private plow driver Frank Albano, are getting even more calls.

"Some people have been because they just can't find other people, so we have gotten some other calls," Albano said. "But I'm ready."

Snow is expected to start from west to east early Friday morning between 2 and 5 a.m. and roads will likely be covered by 7 a.m.

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