As the Province government struggles with wrapping its head around vaccine certificates for the whole of Ontario, anyone that wants to get into City Hall will now definitely have to show their proof of vaccination. On Friday morning, the City of Guelph formally announced that everyone at the Corporation of the City of Guelph will need to be fully vaccinated with limited exceptions.
In a media release on Friday, the City announced the new policy direction and added that it applies to staff members of the corporation, as well as members of City Council, volunteers, and staff at the Guelph Public Library. According to chief administrative officer Scott Stewart, the mandate is being initiated with an eye to protect frontline members of City staff.
“Many of our office-based staff are still working from home, but others don’t have that option because they’re enforcing our bylaws, mowing fields and taking care of our parks or sorting our garbage,” Stewart said. “Regardless of where folks are working, we do hope to bring people back together in office spaces, at Council meetings and for engagement, and whether that’s sooner or later, we need to make sure we’ve done our part to keep our employees and our community safe.”
As for the nuts and bolts of the mandate, staff will have to provide their proof of vaccination by October 15. In an email to staff provided to Guelph Politico, this will be done with an app called Go Evo, which is government operations management software that offers COVID screening among its tools.
Exceptions will be made for medical and religious reasons. According to the email, staff with medical exemptions will need to provide a doctor’s note to human resources outlining the reason why, and whether the exemption is temporary or permanent. People with religious exemptiosn under the Human Rights Code are being directed to the City’s Manager of Employee Health, Safety and Wellness Paul Allen to confidentially discuss the matter.
For the people that can’t get vaccinated, they will be allowed to work from home, but if they have to work inside a City building, they will be subject to regular testing. Per other municipalities and governments with vaccine mandates, the City will require people choosing not to get vaccinated to complete training about the benefits and safety of vaccinations, and the Medical Officer of Health encourages it too.
“Vaccinations are the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health is very supportive of the City’s employee vaccination policy,” said Dr. Nicola Mercer. “We hope to see many other organizations in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph follow the example of the City of Guelph. Policies like this will be essential to drive further vaccination in our community and limit community spread this fall.”
It’s a message that people in Guelph seemed to have heard loud and clear, because more than four out of five Guelphites have gotten their vaccine shots. In Guelph, 89.3 per cent of people have gotten one shot and 83.5 per cent have received both. In the rest of the region, 83.6 per cent of eligible residents have now had one shot, and 78 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
Still, and perhaps in spite of that, even the local COVID cases in Guelph and area are going up. The total number of active cases has shot up to 76, after the addition of 11 new cases on Thursday, but the driver of this new surge seems to be Dufferin County where they have 34 of the active cases whereas Guelph has 29. The 7-day moving rate of confirmed cases is 22.8 per 100,000 while test positivity is 2.3 per cent.
“I am one hundred percent in support of this,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie in a statement. “We will continue to do whatever we can to keep everyone in our community safe and requiring the people who deliver public services to be vaccinated just makes sense.”