Covid-19 Vaccine Passport FAQs
The NLVaxPass comes into effect Friday, October 22. Here’s what this means for municipalities right now.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is encouraging everyone in the province, 12 years of age or older, who are eligible for the vaccine, to get vaccinated.
The province’s COVID-19 immunization program is important to ensuring the safety of residents and our communities, and to protecting the most vulnerable. Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) and Professional Municipal Administrators (PMA) support this immunization program and echo the sentiments encouraging everyone who is eligible and able to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations.
The FAQs below are based upon the provincial COVID-19 vaccine passport program, and how it relates to municipalities. These are based upon the questions we have received from our members.
- Are members of the public required to show proof of vaccination to enter town/city hall to conduct business.
According to the Department of Health and Community Services, Municipal offices are places where government and other public services are offered. As per provincial health guidance, members of the public entering spaces offering government services are not required to show proof of vaccination. See here: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/life-during-covid-19/vaccination-record/businesses-and-organizations/. All other mandatory and recommended public health measures, such as mandatory masking in indoor spaces, physical distancing, sanitization, barriers, etc. should be in place. People who are feeling ill or showing symptoms of COVID-19 should not enter.
- Is proof of vaccination required for the public attending council meetings?
According to the Department of Health and Community Services, proof of vaccination is not required for members of the public to attend council meetings. All other mandatory and recommended public health measures, such as mandatory masking in indoor spaces, physical distancing, sanitization, barriers, etc. should be in place. People who are feeling ill or showing symptoms of COVID-19 should not enter.
- Are councillors required to show proof of vaccination to attend council meetings and to carry out council business?
Proof of vaccination is not required to attend council meetings or to carry out council business. However, if councilors are entering spaces requiring proof of vaccination (see below), they would be expected to comply.
- Are members of the public required to show proof of vaccination to enter other municipally owned buildings like arenas and recreation facilities?
Proof of vaccination is required at several municipally owned facilities, including arenas, recreational facilities, and at gatherings for the purpose of socializing, celebration, ceremony or entertainment that take place in a rental room, community centre, etc. Details are here: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/life-during-covid-19/vaccination-record/citizens/.
- Who is responsible for checking proof of vaccination at municipally owned facilities?
When the municipality is running an event in these spaces, the municipality is responsible for checking for proof of vaccination. When the space is rented to a vendor, it is the vendor’s responsibility for checking for proof of vaccination. More details on the proof of vaccination verification processes for organizations can be found here: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/life-during-covid-19/vaccination-record/businesses-and-organizations/. Failure to comply with proof of vaccination requirements may result in fines.
- Can municipalities implement additional and more stringent policies for members of the public to show proof of vaccination to enter municipal/city halls, including for attending council meetings in person?
There is nothing in the Special Measures Order that would prevent a municipality from implementing a more stringent policy that requires proof of vaccination to enter the town/city hall. However, Public Health would discourage businesses and organizations from limiting access to essential services. MNL and PMA are working our legal team to provide additional information and guidance to municipalities related to this issue.
- Can the public works employee go inside the arena to perform maintenance without providing proof of vaccination?
At this time, the Special Measures Order (SMO) for Proof of Vaccine Status does not apply to employees, volunteers, contractors, vendors or suppliers.
- “The NLVaxPass is required, as we discussed,at several municipal run facilities/spaces, including: arenas, recreational facilities, and at gatherings in a rental room, community centre, etc.” Are we permitted to have council meetings/conduct municipal business in our community hall/other community spaces that do require proof of vaccination? We have been using this space for the meetings since Covid in order to maintain social distancing.
Yes, “gatherings” has been further defined in the SMO as gatherings held for the purposes of “socializing, celebration, ceremony or entertainment”. As such, council meetings are not considered to be “gatherings” for the purposes of the Vaccine Passport SMO.
- Are we “Council” permitted to have meetings with our committees in our community hall without requiring proof of vaccination?
Yes (see above).
- Do all volunteers and volunteer committees have to be vaccinated?
Not at this time. More information about the Mandatory Vaccination Policy will be available in the coming weeks.
Questions Related to Mandatory Vaccincations
- Are municipal staff required to be vaccinated under the provincial mandatory vaccination policy?
According to the Government of NL media release of October 15, 2021, individuals who work in fire departments, with ambulance services and anywhere the proof of vaccination is required for entry, will be included in the group requiring vaccinations. Other municipal staff members are not listed in the media release. (see https://www.gov.nl.ca/releases/2021/health/1015n05/).
- Can municipalities implement additional and more stringent vaccination policies for staff and council?
Yes, additional, municipally developed policies can be put in place at the local level. MNL and PMA are working with our legal team to provide guidance support to municipalities wishing to develop their own policies.
Things to Consider
Municipalities are employers and have an obligation to keep their workers safe. COVID-19 is a workplace hazard and therefore employers have to take reasonable steps to mitigate hazards at work. Municipalities should be engaging with their JOHS committees to help guide their decision making on how to best eliminate (or if elimination is not possible, reduce) the hazard of Covid-19.
- Encourage people to get vaccinated.
- Allow time off to get the vaccine
- Spread information from authorized sources
- Engage community leaders to promote the vaccine among stakeholder groups (like church leaders for example)
- Work with health authorities to set up pop up clinics where they make sense
If considering a mandatory vaccination policy, here are some issues to think about:
- Survey the existing workforce and get a sense of current status of vaccine compliance
- Who will the policy apply to (employees, contractors, visitors, councilors)
- Where will it apply
- How will information be stored
- How will requests for human rights exemptions be managed (if any are received, and what will be the process for applying)
- What will be the consequence for non-compliance
- How will municipal services still be provided for unvaccinated visitors (consider s. 215, have to continue with an option for virtual attendance for public meetings, etc.).
We recommend also reading through the list of FAQs from the provincial government, here: https://www.gov.nl.ca/covid-19/life-during-covid-19/vaccination-record/faqs/#rq12.