HUMBOLDT — Humboldt council has changed their COVID-19 safety policy, requiring city staff to present a negative COVID-19 test twice a week, with an exception for those with proof of full vaccination.
As of Oct. 5, all active city employees and contractors will be required to take a COVID-19 test twice a week to provide verification of a negative test. There is an exception for employees who can provide proof of full vaccination.
This is following Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) hosting a webinar on Sept. 28 on mask and vaccine mandates that provided information on municipal, employment law, and community health and safety questions as they relate to COVID-19.
“The decision we made at the original council was without the information that we’ve received… from SUMA, the provincial government and legal experts provided by SUMA,” said Michael Behiel, Humboldt’s mayor.
The original policy that passed during the city’s Sept. 27 meeting required all employees be tested once a week beginning Oct. 1. It was an amended version of a policy that was brought to council, which would have added the similar requirement to the province – mandating that all city employees either submit a negative test on a consistent basis or show a proof of vaccination.
Joe Day, Humboldt’s city manager, explained that the change from once a week to twice a week is due to the province’s requirement for public access to a range of businesses and event venues.
“If our employees want to stay consistent with a test negative test result that's no more than 72 hours old, or three days old, but they're working five days a week, that's where we came up with the twice a week testing,” Day said.
The City of Humboldt will provide free rapid testing at designated times and locations until Nov. 26. After this date, it will be the responsibility of the employee or contractor to provide test results at their own expense.
“Our requirement is a little bit higher than what the province has put onto their employees, we’re providing ours complementary to our employees, the province is requiring their employees to pay for theirs.”
The date is set to occur after November’s council meeting, to allow council the opportunity to update or change the policy before the coverage runs out.
“Today is the record day since COVID started for Saskatchewan for over an excess of 600 new cases. It's quite apparent that something needs to be done ASAP to try and bring this under control,” Behiel said.
“In my discussions last night with the deputy premier [Donna Harpauer], she made it very clear that they want this all gone as soon as possible. It's not a long-term solution put in place. It's to try and get these numbers under control, and then go back to the way life used to be as best as possible. So Nov. 26, is again, just a guess date.”
There is no anticipated cost to the city as it is subscribed to a provincial program that provides a certain number of test kits to the city so long as they align with provincial objectives.
Coun. Rob Muench was the sole vote against the change, stating that his decision to vote against the policy was due to the change from once a week to twice.
“We're not going to hit 100 per cent here of people getting vaccinated,” Muench said.
“People have their own reasons and I think the people that have just… haven't had a chance to do it yet, I think maybe those numbers are less than we think and I think we're gonna have some pushback from staff.”
The original amendment on Sept. 27 requiring unvaccinated individuals to get tested was made after Muench expressed concerns with the policy as originally presented, stating that he felt it wasn’t fair to unvaccinated individuals. During the Sept. 30 meeting, Muench said he received feedback from staff and residents.
“I'm okay with, like I say, allowing those that have been vaccinated not to have to participate.”