Unions, parents, hospital patients declare support for Manitoba's new vaccine, mask mandates
Province announced new rules Tuesday requiring many provincial workers to be fully vaccinated
There's mounting support for mandatory vaccines and masks for certain provincial workers in Manitoba, with professional associations, hospital patients and parents all coming out in favour of new rules announced by the province.
Kyle Penner says he got surprisingly emotional when he found out school staff would have to be vaccinated, as the province prepares for a fourth wave of COVID-19 featuring the more contagious delta variant.
The Steinbach pastor and father of three said he was anxious about sending his kids back to school in two weeks, but the province's new rules around mandatory vaccines and masks for some workers, including teachers, has given him some relief.
"I called my wife and hadn't realized how much anxiety had built up inside of me," he said.
"I was crying tears of joy that at this point we can all collectively do our best to make sure delta doesn't whip through the unvaccinated in our community or those who can't be vaccinated."
Penner is just one of several people and organizations declaring their support for vaccine and mask mandates.
Most provincial health-care employees, teachers and child-care workers will have to be fully vaccinated, and masks will be required in indoor public settings, including schools, in Manitoba, Premier Brian Pallister and Dr. Brent Roussin announced Tuesday.
The employees affected by the new orders include everyone who works with people at risk from COVID-19, especially children, the elderly and sick patients, and health-care workers who work in spaces or with equipment used by people in those categories.
The new rules apply to provincial employees and workers employed by private companies working in health care settings.
Any employee who hasn't been fully vaccinated or who can't show proof of vaccination must take regular COVID-19 tests, up to three times a week for full-time employees.
Israel Parisian has been in hospital at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg for a month.
He's pleased vaccines will be mandatory for everyone working in hospitals, but without the ability to opt out in exchange for routine testing.
"Everybody should be vaccinated — the health workers, everybody — because they're putting everybody at risk."
Doctors Manitoba and unions representing teachers, nurses and other government employees have also come out in favour of the changes.
In a statement, the Manitoba Teachers' Society also said the mandate was welcome news.
"It's also acknowledgement of the uncertainty and deep concerns about health and safety for this upcoming school year," said MTS president James Bedford.
"We are pleased to see that the government has erred on the side of caution and prioritized student and teacher safety."
Jodie Kehl, executive director of the Manitoba Childcare Association, said they've been calling for a vaccine and mask mandate for certain workers.
"We exist to provide early learning and child care for young children, and so being able to have one more way to protect young children is something we're obviously really thankful for," she said.
The Manitoba Nurses Union and Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union also expressed their support for the mandates.
Provincial workers will need their first dose by Sept. 7 and they have to be double vaccinated by Oct. 31.
With files from Erin Brohman