Municipal governments in Winnipeg and Brandon have implemented vaccine and testing mandates for staff, but Manitoba’s third-largest city has no plans to follow suit.
The City of Steinbach has decided against implementing a vaccine mandate for staff at this time, city manager Troy Warkentin confirmed in a Dec. 22 email.
City administrators regularly review COVID-19 protocols for staff and facilities, Warkentin added.
Mayor Earl Funk said in a phone interview on Dec. 29 that city council supports administration’s stance.
"We’re taking a wait and see approach, so at this time we’re not pushing our administration to (implement) mandatory vaccination on our staff," Funk said.
The mayor also encouraged all eligible staff and residents to get vaccinated.
"It’s worked out well for me. My entire family is vaccinated, all those that are eligible," he said.
Municipal vaccine mandates were discussed in November at the annual convention the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, but Funk said no direction was offered to members.
With a labour shortage in the private sector, Funk said unvaccinated city staff could up and leave if vaccination or regular testing became a condition of continued employment.
"The biggest thing is we need to have compassion and grace for each other, and if we don’t see eye to eye, we still need to be able to care for each other," Funk added.
The City of Winnipeg’s vaccine mandate for frontline staff took effect Nov. 15. Earlier this month, that mandate was expanded to encompass all municipal staff, regardless of whether they interact with the public. Those not covered by the first mandate have until Feb. 22, 2022 to become fully immunized or complete regular testing.
Frontline City of Brandon staff have been under a vaccine and testing mandate since Nov. 1. In a release, the city said its policy was modelled on a provincial template.
In October, Brandon city council announced that all members were fully vaccinated.
Funk, who is fully vaccinated, said he doesn’t know the vaccination status of his six council colleagues.
"I don’t know if they’re all vaccinated. I’ll just leave it at that."
As of Dec. 28, 64.8 percent of Steinbach residents aged five and up had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 84.1 percent in Brandon and 80 to 88 percent in Winnipeg.
Currently in Steinbach, face masks are mandatory in all city facilities and visitors are screened. Provincial public health orders require all visitors aged 12 and up to be fully vaccinated to enter the T.G. Smith Centre and the Steinbach Aquatic Centre.