Since implementing its COVID-19 immunization policy, 92.5 per cent of Red Deer city staff provided proof of full immunization, while the remaining 7.5 per cent chose to provide ongoing proof of negative rapid antigen testing. (Advocate file photo)

Since implementing its COVID-19 immunization policy, 92.5 per cent of Red Deer city staff provided proof of full immunization, while the remaining 7.5 per cent chose to provide ongoing proof of negative rapid antigen testing. (Advocate file photo)

City of Red Deer suspends its staff vaccination, testing policy

There has been a shift to learning to live with the virus, says interim city manager

The City of Red Deer has suspended its staff COVID-19 immunization policy.

The policy was originally implemented on Oct. 5, 2021, as an added layer of protection to reduce viral transmission, protect the healthcare system and maintain the city’s service levels.

“There has been a shift in the provincial pandemic response over the past several weeks to learning to live with the virus. The decision to suspend our internal policy is reflective of this shift,” said Interim City Manager Tara Lodewyk in an emailed release on Thursday.

She believes the policy contributed to improving workplace safety and lessening the impact of COVID-19, resulting in minimal service disruptions over the past five months.

“The decision to suspend rather than eliminate the policy speaks to our inability to foresee what COVID-19 may hand us in the future,” added Lodewyk. “Ii reserves the ability to re-implement the policy if the hazard level and situation warrants it.”

Since implementing the policy, 92.5 per cent of City staff provided proof of full immunization, the remaining 7.5 per cent chose to provide ongoing proof of negative rapid antigen testing.

With the suspension of the policy, the ongoing rapid antigen testing is not required. However, The City will continue to encourage immunization recommendations made by the provincial and federal governments, including getting booster shots.

As of Monday, internal masking requirements for city staff are also lifted, unless required for specific jobs or worksites. City workers can also continue to make the personal choice to wear a mask.

Staff who have worked from home since the beginning of the pandemic will begin moving back into their usual work spaces.

These adjustments to internal measures come three weeks after the province’s removal of mandatory masks in public places and lifting the work from home order.

“Safety and providing continuous services to our community is job one. That is why we are taking a cautious approach in easing of internal measures and shifting back into our offices,” said Lodewyk.

“Each person experienced this pandemic differently, and this next phase that we’re moving into is no different. We will support our staff as we move into what we hope to be the post-pandemic phase.”

Other measures that will remain in place for staff include physical barriers and distancing, limited in-person gatherings for training and meetings, and the requirement to stay home when sick.

A release from the city stated the municipality will continue to follow all health measures in place from the Province. Currently, masks are still required on public transit for Albertans 13 years and older, and at AHS-operated and contracted facilities and continuing care settings.

For Transit services in Red Deer, this means that all riders over 13 years and transit operators must continue to mask when on city buses.

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As of Monday, internal masking requirements for city staff are also lifted, unless required for specific jobs or worksites. (Advocate file photo)

As of Monday, internal masking requirements for city staff are also lifted, unless required for specific jobs or worksites. (Advocate file photo)