EDMONTON — Edmonton’s mayor is concerned about the rising number of COVID-19 cases across Alberta as more employees return to working in person and students return to school.
Don Iveson said at a media availability on Monday that the city is exploring a vaccine mandate for City of Edmonton employees and council could bring back mandatory masking measures as case counts continue to rise.
“I think the numbers we’re seeing in Alberta are concerning,” Iveson said. “There appears to be a fourth wave beginning here in spite of our best efforts.”
Alberta recorded a two-month high in the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units while the province added nearly 2,000 cases over the past weekend.
When asked if masks will remain mandatory while on public transit, taxis, or ride shares beyond Sept. 27, Iveson said he personally believes the measure would be useful but depends on if council believes it is a priority.
“My view continues to be that masking would be an appropriate measure for the city to take, certainly in our own workplaces and in our facilities and services, like public transit,” the mayor said, adding that masks are the lowest cost measure people can take that has had its effectiveness proven throughout the world.
“There’s probably value in looking through the fourth wave here at broader application of a masking requirement in our community.”
Iveson said that masking would be stronger as a public health measure should the province implement a mandate for it so that metropolitan regions like Edmonton have consistency across municipal boundaries.
“I’ve been talking to members of council, including those who had voted to repeal masking earlier in that contentious decision, and they’re certainly hearing from the public that there’s some desire to look at continued masking requirements,” he added. “Masking is one of the best tools in the tool kit to help blunt the impact of a potential fourth wave.”
The mayor said the city could implement a vaccine mandate for municipal employees. Currently, city workers are being asked to anonymously and voluntarily disclose their vaccination status.
“With other major public sector employees, including the Government of Canada and the City of Toronto, requiring vaccination, it’s something we’re looking at very closely,” Iveson said.
He added that the city’s legal team is examining the privacy and enforceability issues of mandating all workers to receive a COVID-19 immunization.
“There are obvious occupational health and safety upsides, and personally, I think those outweigh the other issues,” Iveson said. “Ultimately, there’s a lot of complexity that needs to be worked out in the Edmonton context.”
The mayor said council will receive an update about the potential measure from city administration Monday next week.
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