Red Deer city councillor Michael Dawe wants Red Deerians to be more respectful when voicing their views on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer city councillor Michael Dawe wants Red Deerians to be more respectful when voicing their views on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (Advocate file photo)

City councillor urges Red Deerians to be more respectful when discussing pandemic

99 per cent of city workers comply with mandatory vaccine/antigen testing policy

A Red Deer city councillor who’s struggling with the after-effects of COVID-19 said he’s been called everything from a “Nazi” to a “Satanist” by those with differing opinions on the pandemic.

Coun. Michael Dawe told council on Monday that he knows strong views exist in the community about the COVID crisis because some people “have certainly spent a good amount of energy voicing their points-of-view.”

Dawe advised these Red Deerians to be respectful.

“Don’t start with an insult because I’m not going to be that receptive to what you have to say after…

“I’ve been called everything from a Nazi to a Communist — I didn’t know I can be both — to a Satanist,” added Dawe. He was particularly taken aback to hear people tell him that he doesn’t know anything about COVID-19.

Since the councillor contracted the virus last spring, he’s spent six weeks in hospital and has required oxygen treatments for the past seven months. “To say I know nothing about COVID… is basically an insult,” said Dawe.

“For anyone who genuinely wants to engage in conversation, please keep it at a certain level of respect,” he suggested.

City Council held a respectful discussion Monday about the city’s mandatory vaccination or antigen testing policy, which kicked in on Nov. 29.

Interim city manager Tara Lodewyk told councillors there’s now a 99 per cent compliance rate among staff. This means about 89 per cent of the city’s 1,463 workers are double vaccinated, while another 10 per cent have opted to pay out of their own pockets for rapid antigen testing instead.

Discussions are still underway with the remaining one per cent of staff about what their “next steps” will be.

Lodewyk told council that a lot of time and energy went into researching the best course of action to protect staffers’ health and safety before the mandatory rules were set in place — and it wasn’t an easy decision.

She expressed concern about the polarization in the community and among city employees and stressed the need for people to come together again.

Among city councillors, Kraymer Barnstable and Victor Doerksen have voiced opposition to the city’s mandatory vaccination policy.

On Monday, both councillors said they understood the difficulty of administration’s position. Barnstable, however, took exception to Lodewyk’s comment that vaccinations are the solution to protecting people’s health.

The councillor said he prefers to pay for his own antigen tests. While Barnstable can cover his own costs, he voiced concern that this could be a hardship for others, and wondered if the city could pick up expense in these cases.

Lodewyk responded that, as vaccinations are free, it would be inappropriate for taxpayers to have to pay for the COVID tests of employees who choose to go that route.

Doerksen wondered how many city employees resigned or retired early due to the policy. When told only a couple, Doerksen questioned why city employees who work from home would still have to be vaccinated.

Lodewyk responded that all city workers are expected to be back in city hall for various reasons. Doerksen suggested they should then be able to provide antigen test results.

Coun. Cindy Jefferies said she chose to be vaccinated as a city leader, to support local health care workers and not overload the hospital with COVID cases. While inoculated people can still get milder symptoms from COVID-19, they largely do not require hospitalization, she added.

Rapid antigen tests only show a person’s health status at a certain point in time, said Jefferies, who noted that individual could pick up the COVID virus immediately after getting tested.

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Red Deer City Council