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COVID-19: Unvaccinated Calgary police, city workers leveraging provincial rapid-testing program

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: City of Calgary and CPS’ rapid-testing policy raises concerns' COVID-19: City of Calgary and CPS’ rapid-testing policy raises concerns
WATCH: The City of Calgary has shifted its rapid-testing policy to fall in line with the Calgary Police Service , meaning employees who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will not have to pay for their required rapid tests at this time. As Lauren Pullen reports, the move has caused concern from some Calgarians. – Dec 2, 2021

Calgary Police Service members who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 will soon get help to receive rapid antigen tests so they can stay in line with the police department’s vaccination policy.

While the CPS policy required unvaccinated individuals to pay for twice-weekly testing starting this month, police have applied to the province’s rapid-testing kit program for workplaces and are expecting those rapid antigen tests soon.

Read more: City of Calgary keeps offering free COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees, causing rift with police

“To ensure there were no disruptions in service delivery to Calgarians, this was the best option for everyone involved,” a CPS spokesperson said in a statement.

“This was never intended to be a punitive process, rather a way to ensure those who are serving are doing so in a safe way.”

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The spokesperson stressed that the CPS respects its members’ decisions when it comes to whether or not to get vaccinated.

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COVID-19: Alberta Health Services president disappointed by unvaccinated staff – Nov 29, 2021

“We support inclusivity and collaboration in our workplace, and in doing so, this program was brought to our attention by a group of employees who wondered if we would be eligible,” the CPS said.

Calgary police were informed they qualified for the provincial rapid tests — originally provided by the federal government — but are unaware of when they will receive them.

Click to play video: 'City of Calgary keeps offering free COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees, causing rift with police' City of Calgary keeps offering free COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees, causing rift with police
City of Calgary keeps offering free COVID-19 tests for unvaccinated employees, causing rift with police – Dec 1, 2021

Until those kits arrive, unvaccinated CPS members will have to continue to pay for their own testing, and the police spokesperson confirmed that once test kits from the province are exhausted, those members will have to go back to paying out of pocket.

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On Tuesday, CPS Deputy Chief Raj Gill told the Calgary Police Commission that 92 per cent of the more than 2,500 members were fully vaccinated and one per cent were partially vaccinated.

The vaccination rate among City of Calgary employees is very similar: 91.5 per cent of the 15,000-strong workforce is fully vaccinated.

Read more: Calgary’s third COVID-19 pandemic state of local emergency to expire

The City of Calgary recently changed its stance on unvaccinated workers, with Mayor Jyoti Gondek saying the city will provide twice-weekly testing of unvaccinated workers for the foreseeable future.

That decision comes from the realization that the city had surplus rapid tests they used in the November grace period, where workers had an opportunity to finish a course of vaccination before having to get tested on their own time and on their own dime.

Christopher Collier, director of environment and safety management, said the city received about 125,000 test kits from the province in September and used fewer than expected since then.

Read more: Alberta government commits $80M to develop and manufacture vaccines

“With 92 per cent staff vaccinated, we don’t need nearly as many kits as we thought we were going to use initially,” he said, adding the city expects them to last for between two to three more months.

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Collier added a majority of those tests are due to expire in April 2022.

Police said they were unaware the city had surplus test kits.

Collier said once those tests run out, the city will apply to Alberta Health Services for more, if available.

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“Then we would probably be in a situation where we would have been if we hadn’t extended the program yesterday, which is the only option they’re in is to go and get testing done at your own expense, because there is no more free test kits available to the city,” Collier said Thursday.

He echoed Gondek’s sentiment that having vaccinated individuals pay for testing of unvaccinated workers was “unacceptable.”

“It would seem quite inappropriate for people to have (city) taxpayers… fund testing,” Collier said. “Thankfully, we’ve got the free test kits.”

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