Calgary city councillors approved a city-wide vaccine passport, removing ambiguity left with the province’s restriction exemption program.
Earlier this month, the province outlined its plan for Alberta businesses to implement a proof of vaccination plan should they choose. If a business opts in and requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination, or show a negative test, they can conduct business normally. If they opt out, they must adhere to provincial regulations around capacity and delivery of services.
The city’s version makes it mandatory for businesses within the scope of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health orders.
The vaccine passport bylaw comes into effect on Thursday. The City of Calgary’s face covering bylaw remains in effect.
Coun. Druh Farrell moved the new vaccination passport bylaw, saying they need to provide a feeling of safety for Calgarians when they enter businesses.
“I would say now, they do not feel safe because the province with the rules that they bring in, have been left such a gaping back door that it really renders it ineffective,” said Farrell during a special meeting of council on Wednesday.
Farrell said councillors were tying themselves in knots over the minutiae of the bylaw.
“It’s really the right thing to do. If not, we will be circling this pandemic, I could see for many, many, many months.”
City administration addressed questions around the need for the bylaw. They said this provided clarity and consistency for city businesses. It also allowed city peace officers to enforce the bylaw.
City admin also said that it isn’t an additional passport as suggested in debate by Coun. Jeromy Farkas. It’s making the provincial passport applicable in all city business settings.
Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra and Jeff Davison, along with Mayor Naheed Nenshi took issue with the misinformation.
“We’re letting false narratives and misinformation, fly like it is the gospel. I’m done with it,” said Davison.
Coun. Farkas was the only member opposed to the bylaw.
The city will be offering a small cash grant to businesses to support implementation of the bylaw with details to follow later this week.
Calgary’s Current Covid-19 Challenge and Reactions from the Community
Wednesday’s updated Covid-19 statistics demonstrated continued high levels of infections within the Calgary Health Zone with 5,389 active cases. Hospitalizations also remained critically high at 270 and of those patients, 67 were in intensive care units.
YMCA Calgary stated In a media release sent out after the passing of the vaccine passport bylaw that it has intended to exceed the restrictions exemption program.
“Our approach remains to require full vaccination for all participants 12+ in our facilities. This is in alignment with a new City of Calgary bylaw which includes recreation facilities, including YMCAs.”
The YMCA said this was a approach taken based on the advice of Dr. Kirsten Fiest, an epidemiologist retained by the organization.
“We encourage you to choose vaccination to protect your family and others so you may enjoy the full benefits of the community, including participation at the YMCA,” said the release.
The bylaw will also apply to City of Calgary owned recreation facilities, but not to essential services.
Mayor Nenshi said that the feedback he received this week about the restrictions exemption program had been positive, but that business owners felt the voluntary program had left them open to an angry public.
“Now they can say its a city bylaw they have no choice,” he said.
The mayor characterized the bylaw by stating it gave business owners and their customers comfort in knowing that others around them are vaccinated.
Mobile Vaccination Efforts
The City of Calgary has partnered with the province to bring mobile vaccination to communities in Calgary. One unit is currently in operation.
“We are doing this to help remove barriers to vaccination,” said the Calgary Emergency Management Agency’s Chief Sue Henry.
Locations of the mobile clinics can be found on the city’s website, and clinics can be requested to visit communities using 311.
The clinics will be available for the next 30 days, eight hours per day, starting today at the Peace Bridge.