Newmarket will require COVID-19 vaccinations for all staff members, but council has yet to decide about vaccination requirements for the public using its facilities.
Council directed staff Aug. 30 to prepare a policy that will require staff to provide proof of a first COVID-19 vaccination no later than Oct. 1, and proof of a second dose no later than Nov. 1.
Staff will bring a policy to the council committee of the whole meeting Sept. 13, as well as a report about vaccination requirements for public attendance at town facilities — although council has not indicated its position on that.
The unanimous motion came after a closed session dialogue, withheld from the public due to solicitor-client privilege. Mayor John Taylor said council had a thoughtful discussion on the policy, considering it “deeply and carefully.”
“Council feels, given the circumstances and given the severity of COVID-19 and its impacts on people’s health and the business community, it's justified having a policy for staff to be vaccinated,” Taylor said.
The move comes on the same day York Region announced it would implement a COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff and visitors, using the same Oct. 1 and Nov. 1 dates. The province is also widely expected to announce a vaccine passport system this week, which could require vaccinations to attend certain facilities.
The Newmarket policy will allow for medical or human-rights-based exemptions, as will York's. Taylor said the timing of York Region's decision is partially coincidental, but staff between the two municipalities have communicated and he would like policies to be consistent between the two.
Taylor said council has not decided about requiring vaccinations to use public facilities and wants more information.
“That is not a direction at this point, but we want to make sure we’re fully informed,” Taylor said, “so we can weigh the information, and the pros and cons of potential policies in that area.”
Newmarket has 725 staff members, including full-time, part-time, seasonal and contract.
Councillor Kelly Broome said many people are wondering about the municipal direction on the topic, including those with medical conditions and young children.
“This is a responsible and respectful step forward,” Broome said. “It should also be said that we’re a municipality that manages a seniors centre, and I think we need to be responsible toward that as well.”
Taylor said it is a sensible direction given that some people cannot receive a vaccination, are at medical risk even after vaccination, and the municipal desire to do everything possible to prevent businesses from having to close down again.
"We have to protect our staff, we have to protect the public and protect those who are medically vulnerable," Taylor said. "These aren't easy decisions, and nobody loves creating rules like this, but when you weigh it all out, I think, personally, it's very clear the direction we're going is the right direction."
NewmarketToday will update this story as more details about the policy are released.