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Banff will not create own COVID-19 vaccine passport program

“We’re in a very different time in this pandemic. A lot has changed, including vaccinations,” said Silvio Adamo, the director of emergency management for the Town of Banff.
Banff Town Hall 2
Banff Town Hall

BANFF – Banff’s elected officials have decided against implementing municipal measures in light of the Alberta government’s decision to ease COVID-19 restrictions and eliminate the provincial vaccine passport program.

The Town of Banff’s emergency management team, which has overseen Banff’s response to the pandemic over the past two years, made no recommendations to council for potential restrictions such as a municipal passport program or local masking mandate.

Officials say no other municipalities, including the City of Calgary, are implementing their own measures after the province scrapped the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP) Feb. 9 and announced plans to phase out all mask mandates, social gathering rules and facility capacities in the coming weeks.

“We’re in a very different time in this pandemic. A lot has changed, including vaccinations,” said Silvio Adamo, the director of emergency management for the Town of Banff.

“I think it would be very difficult for a small entity like the Town of Banff to do something at this point …the nice thing about being a smaller municipality is that we can react quickly if we need to.”

Banff’s wastewater surveillance data is showing a downtrend COVID-19 trend, showing levels that are consistent with the pre-Omicron wave. It also appears the City of Calgary and surrounding areas are experiencing a decline in cases.

There has also been an increase in the number of third dose vaccinations in the Banff townsite and throughout Improvement District No. 9 in recent weeks. As of Feb. 16, 10,734 people have at least one vaccine dose, 9,525 were double vaccinated and 4,287 had third doses.

“We’re seeing a decent increase from second to third doses relative to several weeks ago,” said Adamo.

Walk-in vaccination clinics at Banff Town Hall on Feb. 1 and 2 saw 157 vaccine doses administered, and all but three of those were third doses.

“The vast majority of shots were Pfizer, indicating that younger demographic going through the clinic,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor the need and availability of the local supply, and if necessary, can schedule more clinics with the funding that council has provided us.”

With the work-from-home mandate scheduled to end on March 1, Adamo said the Town of Banff is working on a plan to get employees back in the offices.

“We will look at a phased approach to reintroduce folks back into the workplace,” he said.

Mayor Corrie DiManno spoke against implementing measures that deviate from the provincial plan, adding that businesses currently have the right to implement a vaccine passport program if they so choose.

She said the timing of Banff’s COVID update has been advantageous because council has been able to follow the discussions in Calgary and Edmonton, cities that did not move forward with their own vaccine passport programs.

“From what I’ve listened to and read, the common theme for them – as well as for Banff – is that municipalities are too maxed out and ill-equipped to go it alone without provincial measures already in place,” she said. “Municipalities simply do not have the tools or resources to create and enforce a vaccine passport program that relies on managing health records for residents and visitors.”

Whether it’s screening for symptoms, masking, or showing proof of vaccination, DiManno said these protocols fall on the frontline staff to enforce.

“The same frontline staff who have been laid off, recalled, laid off again, verbally abused for enforcing the rules during the pandemic,” she said. “So logistics aside, I could not support putting in a program exposing our thousands of frontline workers to more confrontation in their workplace, after what they’ve already endured.”

DiManno said Banff implemented measures in the past to help stop the spread of COVID when Banff's active case counts were high, but each situation was different.

She said there are now vaccines available for those five years old and up, Banff and ID9 have a high vaccination rate and the world is reopening.

“We will not hesitate to once again advocate to the province for meaningful action if the safety of our community is at risk,” she said.

Councillor Hugh Pettigrew said he was disappointed the Alberta government shut down the QR app for the passport program.

“I wish the government had not abandoned the app program for those businesses that would like to continue to monitor for their own safety,” he said.

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