Summit County businesses short-staffed as COVID-19 spreads |

Summit County businesses short-staffed as COVID-19 spreads

Pandemic exacerbates already-difficult labor market

Pamela Manson
For The Park Record
Main Street in September 2020.
Park Record file photo

As a COVID-19 case surge caused by the omicron variant continues, the number of employees at Summit County businesses who are unable to work their shifts is rising.

Employees who have tested positive for coronavirus or been exposed to someone with it are isolating or quarantining.

The omicron variant has helped drive the transmission of COVID to record-breaking levels. The New York Times on Jan. 11 ranked Summit County as having the fifth-highest rate in the country for COVID cases per 100,000 residents.

Ian Pope, general manager of Five5eeds, closed the restaurant’s dining area on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday a few weeks ago and offered only to-go food on those days. Six or seven of his staff members were isolating due to COVID and weren’t able to work for a week, he said.

“I think that was just the first surge that hurt us but it looks like from now on that we’re appropriately staffed for at least the foreseeable future,” Pope said. “We’ve definitely noticed a drop in business, a slight uptake in to-go and curbside but definitely not as much as when it first hit last year.”

The restaurant, at 1600 Snow Creek Drive, put in a mask mandate a few weeks before Summit County health officials issued a face-covering order and also strongly encourages its employees to get vaccinated, he said.

Jack Walzer, general manager of Jans Mountain Outfitters and White Pine Touring, said hours have been shortened at some of the company’s nine locations in Park City due to COVID’s impact on staffers. He said the business follows all Summit County guidelines on coronavirus.

The staffing situation put stress on the employees who were able to work, especially during the holidays, Walzer said.

“It was definitely a challenge,” he said.

The pandemic is only one factor in the staffing shortage, Walzer said. He said another one is the small pool of workers who live in the area, which is due in part to rising housing costs.

“It’s harder to get people up from Salt Lake, too, because the traffic is ridiculous, plus they can find equal paying jobs in the Salt Lake area as well,” he said. “We had to cut our hours at most of our stores compared to years past.”

Deer Valley Resort is making daily adjustments — limited, temporary closures “in pockets of operations” — because of staff who are out sick or have to quarantine after COVID exposure, said Emily Summers, senior communications manager.

“Our HR department has team dedicated to executing extensive COVID-19 response protocol that includes working individually with all staff that test positive or are exposed to ensure they are taken care of and return to work when it is safe for them to do so,” she said.

Employees are required to show proof of vaccination or undergo testing numerous times a week, Summers said. In addition, Deer Valley has had an indoor mask requirement for all staff and guests since August.

COVID-19 exclusions, as well as cold symptoms, also are affecting the staffing levels at Park City Mountain Resort.

“With these employees rightly staying home, it means we are seeing and experiencing operational impacts on the mountain at a higher rate than expected due to the Omicron variant,” said Jessica Miller, senior manager of communications. “This is part of the reason you may see certain lifts or restaurants not yet open on the mountain.”

PCMR continues to open new runs and areas and now has 85% of its terrain open, she said. Employees must wear masks and were required to be vaccinated effective Nov. 15

“Our teams are continuing to do all that they can to provide the best experience possible every day,” Miller said. “We are incredibly grateful to our employees for their commitment this season, and we thank our guests for their patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this season.”

Mike Goar, PCMR’s vice president and chief operating officer, said in a Jan. 6 interview on KPCW that the staffing level was “very tight.”

However, he added, “We’re much closer to fully staffed than 50%. We’re not that short-staffed but we’re feeling it just like all other businesses.”

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