Sask. Teachers' Federation calling on province to reinstate COVID-19 mandates in schools
Requested measures include mandatory masks, isolation requirements
The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation is urging the provincial government to bring back COVID-19 mandates in schools.
The call comes after recent wastewater tests from the University of Saskatchewan showed week-over-week viral load increases of 742 per cent in Saskatoon, 250 per cent in North Battleford and 56 per cent in Prince Albert.
In a news release sent on Tuesday, STF listed several measures it wants reinstated:
- Mandatory masks in schools, on school buses and for extracurricular activities.
- Isolation requirement for those who test positive and are close contacts.
- Increased transparency and data sharing with schools on COVID-19 cases.
- Increased reporting on cases to the public, so parents can make informed decisions and exercise personal responsibility.
- Access to PCR testing for teachers and all student-facing school staff.
- Reconvene the education sector response planning team to ensure successful and consistent measures.
The province ended all COVID-19 mandates at the end of February as part of its strategy of learning to live with the virus.
"To be honest, it's ridiculous to say that we just need to learn to live with COVID. That's not much consolation to families across the province who have lost loved ones," STF president Patrick Maze told CBC Radio's The Afternoon Edition.
"We have speed zones in schools to make sure that people are safe. We don't say we need to learn to live with cars."
Maze said the lack of data on COVID-19 and not being able to readily get PCR tests make it "really challenging for people to know whether schools are safe or how safe our communities are."
On Tuesday, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said that all signs point to Canada being in a sixth wave of the pandemic and that everyone who's eligible should get a booster shot.
Maze said there are some students in Saskatchewan schools who are too young to be vaccinated, making them more vulnerable to the virus.
"The responsible thing to do would be to just simply say, out of personal responsibility, everybody needs to wear a mask in our schools until this wave is over."
After question period on Tuesday, Minister of Health Paul Merriman said he's aware of the recent wastewater tests, but that the province does not intend to reinstate COVID-19 mandates.
He said the latest he heard from Dr. Shahab, the province's chief medical officer, is that the Saskatchewan is "in a stable position."
Merriman emphasized that people can still wear masks if they chose to do so and that they shouldn't be harassed for it.
"It's anybody's choice if they want to wear a mask or not," he said.
"They should not be shamed for something that they're doing to protect themselves or their family."
Shahab said last week that he continues to recommend hand washing, good ventilation, masking and vaccinations.
Meanwhile, Ottawa's largest school board voted on Tuesday to bring back its mask mandate after the city set records for the amount of coronavirus found in local wastewater.
With files from The Afternoon Edition