Upcoming school year vaccination rates for younger and middle year students will remain the same as previous years, but the province does not yet have a plan for them and other classrooms.
The majority of young people across Manitoba have not or can not be vaccinated against COVID-19. The only students eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine so far in Manitoba are those aged 12 and older. Students from pre-school to approximately Grade 6 are not protected from the virus with a vaccine, meaning their risk inside a classroom with each other will remain similar to the previous year. The school year will differ as parents and teens can be vaccinated and the Delta variant proving to be significantly more contagious than previous strands but how much so remains unspoken.
Dr. Jazz Atwal, the province's Deputy Chief Public Health Officer, says in two weeks' time they will have a plan for how schools will operate.
"We haven't set anything in stone, so again, there's ongoing work being done with those stakeholders and there's a learning process here for all the provinces. We're going to be sharing that information to see what the best route would be for Manitoba starting September," Atwal says.
He says they have ideas on how they will manage the risk but will be consulting with other provinces on their plans.
How the pandemic affected schools
Throughout the past two school years, students have been moving on and offline due to cases and outbreaks. In the 2020-2121 school year, the province says there were 4,631 COVID-19 cases, with 3,695 of those students.
There were more than five dozen potential COVID exposures in schools in the first two and a half months of the school year with many schools having more than one potential exposure. Most students across the province ended the year online.
Day camps are happening across the province. This could give the province a preview as to what the risk of classrooms with 25 people could look like in the fall.
The Manitoba Camping Association was hoping to see larger group sizes and overnight camps in the latest round of health orders.
"If there's a reason why we can't be open overnight to any capacity if it's because of different variants or because kids under 12 can't be vaccinated at this point, at least give us an explanation," Executive Director Kim Scherger says in an interview last week.
Atwal says this is because they have chosen to open other things first and there is a risk of unvaccinated youth at the camps. He says their intent is to continue to open the province further as vaccination levels increase.