With back to school just two weeks away, Manitoba Liberals are asking where the Stefanson PCs plan for safe Back-to-School is.
Manitoba's K-12 system has 190,000 students and the Manitoba's largest university, the University of Manitoba, has over 30,000 students. Dougald Lamont, Manitoba Liberal Leader and MLA for St. Boniface, said the PCs need a plan that focuses on the three Vs - Vaccinations, Ventilation and new Variants.
Lamont said the issue was particularly urgent since Manitobans are still landing in hospital due to Covid. According to CovidTracker19, which aggregates COVID statistics from different provinces, Manitoba has 28 people in ICU right now. That is more than British Columbia, which has a much larger population. Manitoba's vaccination rates are also falling behind, particularly among at-risk communities in the inner-city.
Real-world studies have shown that Covid infections are airborne and that basic measures like masks and ventilation have had a major impact on reducing infections and keeping students and staff alike healthy. Vaccines have been effective in reducing how sick people get - but Manitoba's death toll from Covid in 2022 is higher than it was in 2020, and on track to exceed deaths from 2021.
"For more than two years, the PCs have been saying we need to learn to live with the virus. Well, what's the plan?" asked Lamont. "Where is the plan for the 3 Vs - Vaccinations, Ventilation and new Variants? Because right now, there isn't one, and time is getting short."
Manitoba Liberals say the plan must be based on science from many real-world studies which say ventilation and other non-pharmaceutical measures are effective in lowering transmission and infection rates, while vaccines reduce severity of cases.
Among the things Liberals would like to see in the plan are:
Promoting and offering vaccinations and boosters for teachers, staff, and students by offering clinics in schools
Upgrading ventilation to reduce the viral load in the air
Promoting and requiring masks in public spaces, to protect medically vulnerable students and staff
Co2 Monitoring to help schools detect when not enough fresh air is circulating
Accounting for how the Province spent its $85-million Federal Safe Back-to-School funding
Lamont said the PCs are not doing what it takes to protect people, especially when covid is known to have damaging long-term physical and mental health effects, including on children.
"We need a plan to protect under-served communities who haven't had their boosters, and we need to do more to protect people who are immune compromised," said Lamont. "Just letting everyone get sick is hurting people, its hurting our health care system, and its hurting our economy because people can't work. The PCs need to explain why they aren't ready, again."