By Samantha Johnson
On Jan. 5, Alberta NDP Children’s Services Critic Rakhi Pancholi and Education Critic Sarah Hoffman discussed via Zoom measures that need to be taken to protect preschool aged children.
Some of the requests are the same as those made yesterday by the NDP for schools and Pancholi feels, “now is the time to double down and protect kids and our childcare system.” These include N95 masks for all staff, children and parents working or using childcare centres; HEPA filters in all childcare settings; paid sick leave for staff along with financial support for parents or childcare providers so that parents are not required to pay full fees when isolating or in quarantine. Pancholi wants rapid tests provided for all families and staff of childcare facilities just like in schools. In addition, she wants the government to require children who are in close contact with a positive household member to stay home, something that is currently recommended but not required.
Pancholi, who recently tested positive for COVID, is self-isolating at home said, “as Alberta families brace for the fifth wave of the pandemic, parents of children in childcare feel forgotten. Instead of gearing up and taking action weeks ago, key supports to keep children and staff in childcare settings safe have either been removed, run out or still have not been implemented by the UCP government. Parents, already struggling with repeated exposures and shutdowns, are exhausted and childcare operators are raising the alarm.”
Hoffman wants Alberta to follow the example being set by Quebec, saying “earlier today it was announced seven million rapid tests are being sent to preschools and elementary schools in Quebec, a key plank of their plan to reopen schools. They also installed 50,000 carbon dioxide detectors in classrooms with more on the way while also looking at adding more air exchangers. Quebec is now providing students with internet access at home with LTE sticks that the can plug into their computers. These are the types of things we expect Albertan parents would find helpful when supporting kids learning at home.”
Hoffman was particularly critical of the handling of the N95 mask issue by the UCP. “Many medical experts insist that N95s are the best way to protect public health. Meanwhile, the Premier is pretty clear on what mask is best for him, he wears a N95, and even posted a video of himself out in public wearing one. Kids deserve no less protection. Parents are outraged by another double standard by this government. Kids deserve better, the staff that care for and teach kids deserve better,” said Hoffman.
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