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Journal Pioneer - 2021-11-24

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Policy not needed for Summerside staff

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COLIN MACLEAN colin.maclean@journalpioneer.com @JournalPEI

SUMMERSIDE – The City of Summerside will not, for now, require its staff to be vaccinated against COVID19. Other municipalities in the region, including Charlottetown, Moncton, and Halifax, have implemented mandatory vaccination policies for their employees. Summerside’s reasoning for bucking this trend is that most of its staff, including police and firefighters, are already fully vaccinated. As of early November, 99 per cent of city employees have had one shot of vaccine and 97 per cent have had both. The city’s chief administrative officer, Rob Philpott, noted during the Monday, Nov. 15 council meeting that only five city employees are not fully vaccinated. Those five have cited either health or religious reasons for why they have not received both doses. “If it wasn’t such a high number, if it were at 50 or 60 per cent, then this, respectfully, would be a different conversation with council,” said Philpott. What staff were asking for at the meeting was a sense of what council wanted to do about unvaccinated staff, such as requiring them to take periodic COVID-19 tests, wearing masks while working or other restrictions. “For health reasons or religious reasons, that’s fine. But if they’re working with the public, I think there should be some kind of testing policy,” said Coun. Bruce MacDougall, and that sentiment was echoed by other councillors. When Philpott mentioned that staff were still researching how a testing requirement could work, some councillors asked why the delay was needed. Philpott noted that other municipalities have run into problems enforcing their testing policies, so staff want to make sure they have a workable plan in place before moving ahead; and the already high vaccination rate among staff gives them the breathing room to do so. “We know certain jurisdictions, provincial and otherwise, have rolled out these policies and after the fact have run into some issues and challenges with implementation, just in very general terms. So, I guess that’s why we’re taking a more measured approach here,” said Philpott. Senior city staff will come back with further recommendations to council during its December meeting.

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