REGINA — Members of Regina city council discussed removing current COVID-19 protocols in city facilities on Friday, ultimately agreeing to follow the provincial government’s lead when health orders are pulled.
City council called a special meeting on Friday to discuss four recommendations presented by city administration, pertaining to current COVID-related safety measures in place.
The recommendations called for the removal of the proof of vaccination or negative test requirements within city buildings and facilities, and the removal of masking requirement within city facilities and on city transit
The report also requested that emergency powers previously granted to the city manager in April 2020 be rescinded, effective immediately, and that council and committee meetings return to in-person format in Henry Baker Hall on March 1.
Louise Folk, executive director of people & transformation at the City of Regina, said that the recommendations were presented to align with the province’s plan to remove public health orders.
“It's very difficult to maintain the restriction we have in place without a provincial health order,” said Folk. “It adds to the public’s confusion of what’s required in public spaces.”
The City of Regina received over 500 service requests from residents over a 24-hour period prior to the meeting, said Folk, all requesting the lifting of restrictions.
Thirteen delegates from the public spoke at the meeting, with the majority expressing support for the removal of the vaccination and masking policies in city facilities.
Two delegates were against the recommendations on the table, asking city council to consider keeping the policies to protect vulnerable individuals, like the immuno-compromised.
Councillor Andrew Stevens, Ward 3, said that while the vaccine passport program did prove successful, he worried that it may be less beneficial without unified enforcement across the province.
Ward 1 Councillor Cheryl Stadnichuk presented an amendment, asking if it would be feasible for city facilities to offer separate exercise or recreation classes just for fully vaccinated individuals, in place of a facility wide vaccination policy, to allow.
She said the purpose would be to offer a safe space within city facilities for immuno-compromised individuals concerned about virus exposure. The amendment was voted down 6-5.
All four recommendations were carried after council vote, meaning Regina will be removing proof of vaccination requirements on Feb. 14 and masking requirements on Feb. 28, in unison with the expiration of provincial public health orders.
Councillors Stadnichuk and Shanon Zachidniak for Ward 8 were against removing the proof of vaccination policy, and Councillors Stadnichuk, Zachidniak and Stevens were against removing the mask requirements.
Folk said the removal of these policies will not put COVID out of mind, and the city will continue to monitor the virus in the interest of public safety.
“As we have throughout this pandemic, we will continue to make the safety and well-being of employees and residents our top priority,” said Folk.
City council will receive COVID-19 updates from public health at the bi-monthly council meetings moving forward.
The city will also be continuing to encourage public masking and other safety protocols by residents, as well as reminding people to stay home if they are sick, as part of a public health campaign.