Some municipalities in Nova Scotia are getting set to adopt proof-of-vaccination protocols after the province lifts COVID-19 restrictions Wednesday that will see gathering limits and mask mandates dropped.
The province says proof of full vaccination will be required to participate in non-essential activities, such as going to bars and restaurants, concerts or gyms, but that won't start until Oct. 4.
Last week, Saint John passed a policy that requires councillors and employees, including police, to be fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a mask. That follows a similar policy approved by the city of Fredericton and several others across Canada.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall said her administration is working on similar rules for CBRM, whose employees include police, firefighters and many others who deal directly with the public.
"Our staff will be asked to provide proof of vaccination if they want to be mask-free," she said. "Should people not feel comfortable providing that, we are still working through what that will look like in terms of a testing and masking protocol to follow."
McDougall said the province is working with municipalities to determine how to move forward safely.
"We will be making sure that people have the options," McDougall said. "We will not be firing people or people do not stand to lose their job should they not be able to provide the proof of two vaccinations, but there will be alternative measures needed."
No one will be required to disclose their vaccination status publicly, but they will be required to disclose proof to their supervisor in order to avoid testing and masking.
The rules will apply to councillors and people visiting municipal facilities, as well, she said.
"If you're going to be using, for example, Centre 200 to go and enjoy some entertainment, there are going to be procedures in place," McDougall said.
"At the end of the day ... we have to keep each other safe. It is not a judgment thing. They have the freedom to make any choices that they want, but we have to ensure that we're keeping one another safe because there's a segment of our population who are simply not able to get vaccinated."
What Halifax is doing
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage was not made available for an interview, but his staff say a vaccination policy for council and employees will be created once the impact of the provincial system on municipal services is determined.
A spokesperson with the province said in an email that nothing specific is being developed for municipalities.
"The proof-of-vaccine policy will not have guidelines specific to municipal workers or other essential workers," they said.
"Employers have an obligation to make a workplace safe for workers and patrons. This may include establishing a vaccine policy or other public health measures to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19."
McDougall said there will be no need for a policy.
Instead, CBRM will adopt protocols that meet public health guidelines.
She said a policy would have to come before council and be debated, which would make it difficult to amend quickly if there's a change in the incidence of COVID-19 infections.
CBRM mayor looking forward to Phase 5
CBRM council has not met in city hall since the election in October 2019.
McDougall said that will likely change after the province enters Phase 5 on Wednesday.
"For me personally, it will be quite special," she said. "I know for my council members, as well, there's many who have never had a meeting in these council chambers, but that will actually be the first time I will sit in the mayor's chair, too, so it will be monumental for many reasons."
The municipality added plastic dividers to the council chambers in hopes of meeting COVID-19 protocols, but that plan was never approved by the province.
McDougall said they will likely stay up for now.
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