Saskatoon mayor calls for vaccine passports as city grapples with 'increasingly serious' COVID-19 surge
The mayor of Saskatoon is calling for measures including "vaccine passports" in the wake of rising COVID-19 rates in the city.
In a message shared on social media Tuesday evening, Charlie Clark called the recent rise in case numbers "discouraging." As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 413 active cases reported in the Saskatoon area.
Clark said he believes there needs to be measures in place for people who choose not to be vaccinated.
"(Measures) that put limits or conditions on how much they can participate in community activities," Clark said.
"This includes vaccine passports, vaccination requirements for certain activities, mandatory testing, etc."
In an interview, Clark said the post was controversial and he's received lots of responses about it.
“I’ve seen a lot of back lash on social media. I’m concerned this is becoming increasingly polarizing situation in our community and I understand that there’s still a lot of anxiety about COVID and the vaccines. My intent is not to increase that polarization,” he said.
“As a community, we have to come to terms with this reality and work together, as we always have, on how to keep people safe and keep our health system from getting overwhelmed and have the right conditions for our economy to recover and businesses to thrive."
Sam Farthing is a father of four in Saskatoon. He said he doesn’t want to see the return of restrictions or vaccine passports.
“Please no, because we need to make these decisions ourselves, have our own freedom to decide what we need to do,” Farthing said.
“We have freedoms, we have rights, we have to make our own decisions. You can’t tell us what to do … I’m someone who does take precautions, but still, we have to do this ourselves.”
But a University of Saskatchewan doctor said it’s not so simple.
“We have rights and responsibilities living in a community, and those have to be balanced. When one individual’s rights put the rest of the community at risk, we limit those rights for a time,” said Dr. Cory Neudorf, a public health and epidemiology physician.
The new Delta variant is predominant in Saskatoon, according to Neudorf.
Since it’s more transmissible than the original strain, he said increased preventative measures are necessary and is in favour of a system that allows access based on whether or not you’re vaccinated.
In Clark’s post, he pointed to wastewater data showing the highest levels of COVID-19 fragments since researchers began monitoring the city's sewage.
"Fall is coming, schools will be opening, we will have more indoor activities. Things will only get worse," Clark said.
"We are sitting at only 68 per cent of the population vaccinated – we need to get to at least 85 per cent."
Clark also brought up the possibility of making masks mandatory again.
He said the city is still finalizing policies for its employees, as well as for public services like transit and leisure centres.