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Vaccination Policy Approved for Town and RM of Lumsden

·4 min read

Like many jurisdictions considering implementing a policy, the Town of Lumsden Council debated the new policy details around the council table during a special open meeting on October 5th.

Council for the Town of Lumsden regularly debates hot topic issues, including openly debating the Town’s budget for one of the two days scheduled in April. And for the Town, debating the administrative vaccination policy was no different.

The decision on whether to require employees to provide proof of vaccination status has proponents and opponents with sometimes polarizing viewpoints. The open debate at Lumsden allowed the public to see how their Council arrived at a decision.

The debate was similar in the RM of McKillop when their Council also openly debated their Policy on September 28th, with different viewpoints being offered as they considered possible options. Along with the CAO at the McKillop council table, two employees provided input into the discussion.

Around the Town of Lumsden table, the debate quickly moved from requiring proof of vaccination to allowing a negative COVID test. It was then centred on whether the Town would pay for the tests, if a PCR test would be required or if a Rapid Antigen test would be acceptable. Councillor Jim Rawlings spoke strongly for the Town to pay for required tests, and there was some debate on whether to require the Town’s volunteer firefighters to pay for the tests and if there could be an impact due to a potential loss of trained firefighters.

The comprehensive policy that the Town has adopted provides the history of the Town’s actions from March 18th, 2020, when the Government of Saskatchewan declared a provincial State of emergency until the September 17th Public Health order that again mandated the use of face masks in all public spaces.

The policy states that the purpose “Is to reduce the risks of COVID-19 in the workplace and to provide a safe environment for staff members and the public to access and use Town facilities.” It says that the health and safety of employees is a priority and acknowledges that COVID-19 is a highly contagious communicable disease. Adding that, the Town strongly encourages all employees, fire department members, council members, and contractors to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations as soon as possible.

The statement finishes by saying, “Based on current infection rates, the Council of the Town of Lumsden deems it necessary to take further action to ensure the well-being of its employees.”

Starting on October 25th, employees who have not indicated their vaccination status or chosen not to disclose their status will be responsible, at their own cost, for having an approved provider administer a PCR Test or a rapid antigen test. If an employee’s test is positive, the policy says they will not be able to go to work in accordance with public health orders. If the positive test is because of a rapid antigen test, the employee can challenge the result by taking a PCR test at their own cost.

The policy states that while employees are 100% responsible for the cost of the test, the Town is going to try to purchase bulk rapid antigen tests to provide to them at cost. The new policy also states that employees can’t use the municipality’s wellness benefit or use sick time for the weekly testing. The policy also states that “Any Staff Member not in compliance with the above provisions shall be subject to dismissal.”

There are slight variances in the policy for fire department members, council members, members of the public, and contractors. Members of the Fire Department will also be required to provide proof of vaccination or weekly negative tests. Council members are required to provide proof of vaccination. If they do not and the Council is meeting in person, they will be required to attend the meeting electronically.

Members of the public who want to attend the meeting in person, including delegations, will also be required to wear a mask and provide proof of vaccination. If they cannot provide proof of vaccination, they cannot attend in person but can attend the meeting electronically.

And finally, Contractors who are performing work for more than one hour in any of the Town’s facilities must ensure their personnel are fully vaccinated or have provided proof of a weekly negative test. If they don’t, they will be denied entry to the Town’s facilities. Contractors will also be required to provide declarations that they are following the Town’s vaccination requirements.

After the debate on October 5th, the Town approved the policy in principle so it could be brought before the Council for the RM of Lumsden, who shares Administration with the Town at their October 7th meeting. In contrast to the Town’s open discussion on the policy, the RM council discussed the policy in a closed session before deciding to support the Town’s Policy in its entirety.

The CAO at the RM of McKillop is in the process of developing the RM’s Policy and will be bringing it forward to their Council table on October 26th.

Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times

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