Saskatoon city council voted to suspend the COVID-19 risk mitigation framework. The framework recommends the council enact or remove safeguards as the number of active cases rises and falls in the city.
The city’s director of emergency planning told council the city administration is preparing for fewer provincial directives.
“We are planning for a period of time when there are no public health orders, and we’re planning that that will likely be at the end of February,” Pamela Goulden-McLeod told the council.
The council meeting took place at the same time Premier Scott Moe announced the province will remove the requirement for people to display proof of vaccination or a recent negative test by the end of February.
Council adopted the framework in August 2021, when provincial health guidelines directed organizations to manage transmission of the virus with their own measures.
Since then, a city report states, the province has adopted legislation requiring most facilities to check proof of vaccination or for a recent negative test and mandatory isolation and masking.
But since the provincial government no longer requires people who test positive on a rapid antigen test to obtain a PCR test, there is no official record of the diagnosis, and it is difficult to know how COVID-19 is spreading in the city.
The city report states medical health officers now look more at hospitalizations, which the framework doesn’t track.
Goulden-McLeod said she would brief the council with the latest advice from the city’s medical health officer when the province announced it was removing health guidelines.
If the medical health officer has different recommendations, Goulden-McLeod said, the city administration can ask the mayor or a majority of councillors to call a special session of city council to present the findings and discuss alternative measures.
“If we see the public health orders lifted within the next few weeks, there is going to be a lot of uncertainty about what that means for our patrons, whether it’s in leisure facilities or on transit and other civic operations that we provide,” Mayor Charlie Clark said.
“I think we need to anticipate that it will require some discussion and I think it may not be possible to have that discussion before the order (is lifted), depending on when that happens.”