The Columbia Shuswap Regional District has suspended its COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy for its paid-on-call firefighters and elected officials for the next six months.
In a press release on Thursday, the regional district said the change will take place immediately, pending possible provincial public health orders.
However, the CSRD says an amendment made will allow staff to rapidly reapply the policy should a COVID-19 outbreak take place involving fire services.
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That decision, said the CSRD, will be delegated to three people, “allowing them to make determinations on the vaccination policy without having to call a board meeting.”
Regarding elected officials, the regional district said “if elected officials choose not to be vaccinated, however, they will be required to work remotely where possible.”
If they are unable to work remotely, unvaccinated elected directors will be required to wear a mask while in regional district facilities and on CSRD business.
“Unvaccinated firefighters will also be required to wear masks when working directly in the CSRD administration building,” said the regional district.
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The regional district’s vaccination policy, though, remains in place for all current CSRD employees and newly hired workers.
“While discussion around the board table reflected various viewpoints, the majority of directors voted in favour of the temporary suspension of the policy at this time,” said the regional district.
“It was also noted that suspending the policy reflected the position of most fire department members, who expressed that they were in favour of working with unvaccinated firefighters.
“This was, in part, because firefighters train for a short duration each week and much of this training takes place outdoors.”
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The CSRD said it lost approximately 15 per cent of its firefighting force with the implementation of the COVID-19 proof of vaccination policy.
“It is hoped that the suspension of the policy will encourage many of these firefighters to return to their firefighting duties,” said the CSRD.
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