The new school year should be an exciting time for students, parents, and educators. Until recently, school divisions across the province had to come up with their own safety protocols regarding staff vaccinations and mask mandates. That’s why organizations like the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, parent groups, and many others were calling for the province to enact increased measures to protect our school population.
Recent announcements, although delayed, are most welcome, and are a decent start on the things that need to be done to better protect students. The Manitoba government will now require all provincial employees who work with vulnerable populations to be fully immunized for COVID-19 by Oct. 31, or undergo regular testing, to protect Manitoba against a fourth COVID-19 wave.
The PCs are also, after much backlash to its removal, bringing back the indoor mask mandate and will announce an expanded list of activities and services that can only be accessed by those who are fully immunized.
The newly announced public health orders require all designated provincial public service workers who have ongoing contact with vulnerable populations, especially children, to be fully immunized or submit to testing up to three times per week.
These employees will be required to be fully immunized with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The first dose needs to be completed by Sept. 7, the first day of school, and the second dose completed by Oct. 17.
For more information on how to book a vaccine appointment, visit www.protectmb.ca/.
These changes reflect some of the measures my NDP colleagues and I have been calling for. Additionally, we need more full-time teachers, substitutes, EAs, and clinicians, so we can reduce class sizes to keep kids safely distanced and give them the instruction they deserve. We’ve also been calling for vaccine clinics in schools to ensure easy access and culturally specific education for families, and more mental health supports for students, families and school staff. Lastly, we need standards for ventilation in schools and investment in HVAC upgrades and air purifiers. European governments have been acting on new ventilation guidelines for almost a year — it’s time for us to follow suit.
If you have any questions about other provincial programs, feel free to contact me at 204-415-1122 or email me at Jim.Maloway@yourmanitoba.ca
Elmwood constituency report
Jim Maloway is the NDP MLA for Elmwood.