Regina city council, committees moving to virtual meetings over variant spread concerns

·2 min read
After an emergency motion, all city council and committee meetings will be held virtually instead of in Henry Baker Hall at City Hall.  (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)
After an emergency motion, all city council and committee meetings will be held virtually instead of in Henry Baker Hall at City Hall. (Matt Duguid/CBC - image credit)

Regina's executive committee has used an emergency motion to decide to meet only virtually after the number of coronavirus variants continues to grow in the city.

"Regina is, in the nation, the hotspot for COVID-19 and particularly for COVID-19 variants," said Coun. Bob Hawkins during the March 17 meeting. "We've heard about the transmissibility; we've had death of young people in Regina recently; this is a dangerous situation."

Regina has 513 active cases as of March 17. There are 135 confirmed variants of concern in the province. Regina has 121 of those cases, or 90 per cent of them. There are also 313 presumptive variants of concern in the province with 264 located in Regina.

Hawkins proposed the emergency motion. He said it's important to set an example for other organizations in the city.

"This sends a message to the community about how serious this is," Hawkins said.

During the pandemic, councillors have all been masked and there are plexiglass shields between them. However, Hawkins said it just takes one mistake for one minute or less to expose everyone as the variants are 70 per cent more transmissible.

The committee voted unanimously that starting on March 18, all city council and committees only meet virtually — with only the chair and essential staff in Henry Baker Hall — until April 30.

Recreational facilities to remain open

Coun. Andrew Stevens asked if recreational facilities should close, however Hawkins said the move to virtual meetings was only meant to deal with council and committee meetings. Hawkins and city administration say they are closely watching the situation and getting daily briefings from Saskatchewan Health Authority.

City manager Chris Holden said while council has looked to be more aggressive than the province in the past, administration has been having conversations with the SHA about jurisdiction and authority. Administration said it's important to follow the health authority's directive as a result of those conversations.

"From day one we've been taking steps to protect the public," Holden said. "So we'll continue to monitor and adjust."

The city clerk, Jim Nicol, said these decisions typically can only be made by council — not the executive committee — but due to the unique situation, the executive committee has the authority to make this change.

<cite>(CBC News Graphics)</cite>
(CBC News Graphics)

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