City spent more than $83K for temporary employee COVID-19 tests
A COVID-19 report presented at Regina city council Wednesday, shows the city spent $83,200 from October to mid-November.
The site was staffed by members of the Regina Fire and Protective Services and set up to give employees time to plan for a mandatory vaccination or negative COVID-19 test policy, that started in October 2021 at city facilities.
According to the report, the site ran from October 1 to November 15. Initially 403 employees required testing, by the end of the six week site, that total dropped to 162.
It adds as of January 7, 94 per cent of city employees are fully vaccinated, and 114 employees are providing weekly tests at their own cost instead of providing proof of vaccination.
As the Omicron variant is causing increased COVID-19 case numbers, the city said it continues to monitor the situation, employee absences and is working to limit service disruptions.
The report stated there are about 2,000 employees working at the city this time of year and “at this point service delivery has not been impacted due to staffing shortages. Emergency services, transit and servicing city infrastructure currently pose the primary risks for service and disruptions.”
The report said risk mitigation strategies like staggering cohort shifts and rotating crews have been implemented to ensure essential services continue.
City administration said the city continues to promote booster vaccines, rapid tests and public health measures including physical distancing, hand washing and staying home when sick.
“The city expects, like all industries, service disruptions may occur throughout the fifth wave and we will continue to update council and the public in the event of disruptions,” the report stated.
Regina Transit update
During Wednesday’s meeting, the city said transit vehicles are still equipped with temporary barriers, with permanent ones expected to be installed by the second quarter of 2022.
“Ridership has been slowly increasing, particularly since students returned to school in September,” Chris Holden, city manager, said. “Since then conventional transit has returned to full service, with ridership at 60 per cent of the pre-pandemic levels.”
Holden added paratransit is operating at 80 per cent capacity due to lower demand, with ridership at about 65 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
City facilities update
Saskatchewan has extended the public health order requiring masks, proof of vaccination, or a negative test to February 28.
The report states the city implemented its mask and proof of vaccination requirements for all facilities, expect for Regina Public Libraries and the Transit Information Centre, for everyone over the age of 11, in October.
“Compliance has been extremely high with very few customer complaints,” said Holden.
Administration stated Wednesday participation levels at city leisure centres are at about 60 per cent of pre-COVID-19 numbers. Over the last few years that number has shifted, as public health restrictions changed.
The city said once the proof of vaccination or proof of a negative test requirement started, participation numbers increased.
City skating arenas have been fully booked.
Holden said the vaccination and mask mandates will stay in place until the city gets further direction from the province.
Frost Festival still a go
As COVID-19 discussions continued, so too did questions on if Frost Festival will go ahead.
Sandra Masters, mayor of Regina, said she has been in communication with the province and the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), and because it’s an outdoor event, the festival still plans on going ahead.
“The province, right now, does not have a view that it’s at any risk of being cancelled or postponed,” Masters said.
She said if ICU numbers start to spike and models show Regina could be at risk of another COVID-19 variant, plans could change.
Firefirghters working COVID-19 testing drive-thru
The city also confirmed members of Regina Fire and Protective Services are working at the COVID-19 drive thru testing site at the former Costco.
Holden said due to staffing shortage within the SHA, the city has agreed to send firefighters who are properly trained to work at the PRC testing site and vaccine clinic.
“The SHA covers all of the costs of our city staff,” Holden said.
He added if staffing levels within the fire departments starts to become an issue, the city will cancel the agreement.
Council votes to rename Regent Park
Council voted unanimously to rename the parks and land around the former Regent Par Three Golf Course, on Wednesday.
The goal is for the park to carry an Indigenous name.
This is in line with the Civic Naming Committee guidelines that requires 25 per cent of streets and 50 per cent of park names to have Indigenous connection.
“It’s important to kind of reset our history which has exclusionary in nature,” Sandra Masters, mayor of Regina, said. “We work towards, as one small piece of reconciliation, just that acknowledgement of Indigenous ancestry, Indigenous history, Indigenous culture and we work towards putting that on our civic infrastructure.”
She said Regent Park is an easy park to rename, because “Regent Par Three isn’t overly inspiring, there’s a lot of investment going into that park and given its location, it just makes a lot of sense that we would honour Indigenous culture by renaming the park.”
The City of Regina will work with Regina/Treaty Status Indian Services and the University of Regina linguistics department, to come up with a name.
Administration said it will also consult local community organizations and Elders during this process.
School zone time change being discussed
A report proposing changing times school zones are active was brought forward on Wednesday.
The report suggested changing schools zones to be active from 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m., instead of the current 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m...
“Being cognizant of the fact that 7:00 a.m. does perhaps interfere with morning commutes and there aren’t a lot of children playing in the parks at 7:00 a.m.,” Masters said.
According to the report, the change would also accommodate activities and sports happening in the evenings at schools and playgrounds.
Masters said the report is part of a bigger plan called “Vision Zero” to keep individuals around schools zones and parks safe. She said this includes flashing lights, markers and painted curbs.
“Vision Zero” will be bringing an updated report to council at a later date, which will now include school zone times.
That report is expected in the city’s third quarter.
Regina council's next meeting is scheduled for February 2, 2022.
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