WINNIPEG — Citing poor COVID-19 vaccination rollout and teachers not being prioritized for shots, the Manitoba Teachers’ Society is calling on the province to move all Winnipeg schools into ‘code red.’
“Priority vaccination was the answer weeks ago and the government refused to act,” MTS President James Bedford said in a statement on Thursday. “Vaccines alone will no longer make the difference. That is abundantly clear.”
Teachers and school staff haven’t been prioritized for vaccines as a whole throughout the province, except in hotspot areas in certain neighbourhoods.
Fourteen Manitoba schools have now moved to remote learning recently as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks within their facilities.
“We can no longer take this government at its word,” says Bedford. “Variants of concern are impacting younger and younger Manitobans. We must use every means at our disposal to arrest the virus’ spread and keep our children safe.”
Bedford points out that even if teachers were prioritized and vaccinated today, it would be mid to late May before the shots became effective.
MTS says moving schools within the city of Winnipeg to code red would serve as a “necessary circuit breaker, permitting time for vaccines and other public health measures to dampen the third wave.”
Manitoba enacted a set of new strict public health measures on Wednesday for a period of four weeks to help lower case numbers and hospital admissions.
On the vaccine front, 447,031 doses had been administered as of Wednesday, including some second shots.
Bedford suggests May 4 as a target date for schools to switch to remote learning, giving teachers a few days to prepare to shift from in-classroom teaching.
“The government must act to prioritize the health and safety of children and teachers. And it must do so now.”