City of Calgary now requires regular negative COVID tests from its unvaccinated staff

·3 min read
The City of Calgary now requires its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (CBC - image credit)
The City of Calgary now requires its staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19. (CBC - image credit)

The City of Calgary's mandatory vaccination policy is now in effect.

It's requiring all city employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, regardless of whether they work in the office, at home or elsewhere.

As of last week, it said that 86 per cent of its staff have had at least one dose. That's nearly 11,000 employees.

For those few who have valid medical exemptions and those who have not taken the vaccine or refuse to divulge their status, starting Nov. 1 they have to regularly provide the city with proof that they have tested negative for the virus.

The city is making rapid testing kits available at no charge to those workers for use at home. It obtained the testing kits from Alberta Health Services.

City manager David Duckworth, said unvaccinated employees will be required to provide test results a minimum of twice a week.

They must also watch an online educational video to learn about vaccines.

Starting Dec. 1, he said that unvaccinated employees will be required to undergo rapid testing on their own time and at their own expense through local pharmacies or other approved locations. It's estimated that will cost each employee several hundred dollars per month.

He said the policy is aimed at maintaining a safe, healthy workplace for city staff and the public.

"I know I've heard from many, many, many employees, way more employees that are happy this policy is in place and we're doing whatever we can to protect our employees as opposed to those who are unhappy with the policy," said Duckworth.

"There are of course some employees who are very unhappy about this."

He said employees who fail to provide the city with proof of negative test results as required will be placed on 30 day leave of absence.

Duckworth estimated the city will start November with about 2,000 of its 14,000 employees being unvaccinated or failing to disclose their status.

However, he doesn't expect any serious challenges with the city maintaining its services to Calgarians if hundreds of unvaccinated employees refuse to provide test results.

"There may be some impacts on transit but we will still have to monitor that. At this point in time, we're not really anticipating any big impacts."

The vaccination rate in the fire department is running slightly lower than the city's overall rate. It reported that 82 per cent of its staff are fully or partially vaccinated.

The Calgary Police Service has 88 per cent of its employees (officers and civilian staff) are fully or partially vaccinated.

In a statement, Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she's encouraged by the progress in city employees to get the shot as she said it's the only way out of the pandemic.

"I encourage any remaining city employee — and any Calgarian— who has not yet been vaccinated to do so now," said Gondek.

"While our healthcare workers are working tirelessly on the front lines, we must each take responsibility and do our part."

The city estimates that there have been at least 700 of its employees who have tested positive since the first cases were noted in Alberta in March 2020.

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