Toronto eyes vaccination rules for city employees; calls on Doug Ford for provincial ‘game plan’
July 29, 2021
Toronto is eyeing COVID-19 vaccination requirements for city employees but is urging Premier Doug Ford --who has taken a hands-off approach to the thorny issue --to help devise an “overall game plan” for Ontario.
“We would do what we could with respect to our own employees, subject to the outcome of these (vaccination mandate) discussions,” happening between the city, the Ford government and public health officials, Mayor John Tory told reporters Wednesday.
“But I think it is certainly going to be a better situation for us all if we have an overall game plan that applies, generally speaking, to institutions, businesses and others right across the province.”
Tory was asked if Toronto will follow the lead of New York City, which told its municipal workers to get fully vaccinated by Sept. 13 or face weekly COVID-19 tests.
That city is also making vaccinations mandatory for health-care workers at city-run hospitals and clinics. Toronto city health-care workers currently face no vaccine requirement.
Concerns over spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, as society reopens after the punishing 16-month pandemic, are fuelling calls for proof of vaccination across government, private employers, schools and hospitality sites including bars.
After initially rejecting the idea of an official vaccine record or “passport” --arguing it would create a “split society” --Ford this week passed the buck to Ottawa, saying: “As for the passport, that is up to the federal government.”
Tory, who announced some civic buildings including city hall will soon reopen to the public, said the focus of any vaccination requirements must be keeping city staff, residents and others as protected as possible from COVID-19.
He said he personally pushed Ford as recently as Tuesday to gather officials from business, municipalities, public health units, school boards and others to devise guidelines and avoid a confusing patchwork of vaccination rules across Ontario.
“The more we can be consistent with one another ... the better off we’re all going to be in avoiding a confusing or chaotic situation come the fall when many more people are going to be going back to school and back to work and back to city halls and places like that,” Tory said.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s public health chief, echoed the call for provincial guidance on the complex legal and occupational safety questions, plus the tools to get Ontario as vaccinated as possible.
“Clearly, we want to avoid any kind of confusion,” de Villa said.
The city said it expects Wednesday’s weekly COVID-19 briefing to be the last of its regularly scheduled media updates, which were held three times per week at the height of the pandemic.
“Due to continued low COVID-19 cases counts and increasing vaccination rates ... future updates will be held on an as-needed basis,” the city said. Eighty per cent of Torontonians aged 12 and older have at least one vaccination; 69 per cent are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 spread in Toronto is, however, on the rise again after dropping steadily since the pandemic’s mid-April peak. The seven-day average for new daily infections rose 60 per cent between July 12 and July 24, to 33 cases.
Toronto Public Health attributed the “slight” increase to more people mingling amid after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. The seven-day average for new daily COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to drop, to 1.4.
In other signs of transition to a post-pandemic footing, the city will close five of its nine immunization clinics on Aug. 22 and redeploy the resources to under-vaccinated communities, with pop-up clinics and other outreach set to increase fivefold.
And on Aug. 9, Toronto city hall, the civic centres in North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, York and East York will reopen to visitors for “a limited number of in-person counter services only.”