Calgary city council has voted unanimously to amend the city’s COVID-19 vaccine passport bylaw.
According to city administration, the changes were to broadly align the city’s bylaw with the province’s restrictions exemption program (REP).
The City of Calgary passed the vaccine passport bylaw last fall, which makes it mandatory for all eligible businesses to opt into the REP, which requires proof of vaccination, a negative COVID-19 test or a medical exemption to enter.
Several changes were included in the amendment to match the definitions of eligibility, identification and proof of vaccination to the provincial rules.
“This would mean that should these definitions be amended under the provincial program, the new definitions would be incorporated by reference into Calgary’s bylaw, eliminating the need for further bylaw amendments,” Matt Zabloski with Calgary Community Standards told city council.
Although youth sports are exempt from the provincial program, those activities were included in the municipal vaccine passport bylaw when it came into effect last year. The inclusion of youth sports and activities continues under the latest round of changes to the municipal bylaw.
Under the newly implemented changes to the bylaw, youths between the ages of 12 and 17 will no longer have to show their ID when they show their proof of vaccination.
The minimum age requirement for proof of vaccination has also changed to 12 years plus 10 weeks.
According to city administration, it is to align with the provincial program’s minimum age.
“For children that are 11 years old turning 12 in 2021, they could have gotten their vaccination at any point in the year, but those who are 11 and turning 12 in 2022 could not get an adult-sized vaccination dose until Jan. 1 of the (new) year,” Zabloski told council. “That 10 weeks was added to that in order to allow those children the full session or double doses they would need in order to become fully vaccinated.”
According to city administration, there have been 36 tickets handed out for vaccine passport bylaw violations since it came into effect in September, as well as 166 tickets handed out to those found in violation of the face-covering bylaw during the same time period.
Calgary COVID-19 Update
Calgary accounts for nearly half of all active COVID-19 cases in Alberta, according to a presentation by emergency officials at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“We’ve seen cases skyrocket in an unprecedented trajectory over the last several weeks driven by the Omicron variant,” Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Sue Henry told council.
However, Henry said the reported case numbers are not accurate of the true number of COVID-19 spread in the community due to the limits on testing capacity. She added that it is anticipated the true number of cases is much higher.
“To date, Calgary has borne the brunt of this wave,” Henry said. “The Calgary zone has jumped from about 1,700 cases to over 27,000 cases in less than a month.”
Data presented to city council Tuesday showed Calgary’s seven-day average positivity rate at 43 per cent.
In terms of severe outcomes, there are currently 264 people in hospital with COVID-19 in the Calgary zone and 28 of those people are in intensive care.
But Henry said officials continue to monitor the situation in other countries, where severe outcomes due to the Omicron variant continue to vary.
“On an international level, we’re seeing some countries managing brief waves and less severe impacts to the health-care system,” Henry said. “(But) parts of the U.S. are seeing hospitalizations and ICU admissions as high as they’ve ever been.
“It remains to be seen what the impact will be here in Alberta.”
Of eligible Calgarians, 88.3 per cent now have a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while roughly 82 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses.
In terms of the entire population of the city, 77 per cent are fully vaccinated.
According to Henry, just under 45 per cent of Calgarians between the ages of five and 11 have one dose of the vaccine.
“Within the five-to-11 age range, we still have a ways to go both in terms of overall coverage and reducing the disparity between areas of the city,” she said.
According to Henry, the City of Calgary doesn’t have access to pediatric doses of the COVID-19 vaccine but will work with partners at Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services to get resources to communities with a lower vaccine uptake.
“Vaccinating kids is a significant task and it’s one that we have to take in a united manner, especially because they are back at school,” Mayor Jyoti Gondek said.
“We will absolutely do what we can as a city to identify where greater supports are needed, deploy what we can and urge the province to do the same.”