STF Calls for Increased Measures to Protect Students and Teachers

March 17, 2021
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

As variants of concern spread throughout Saskatchewan and schools close as a result, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is calling on the Government of Saskatchewan to take swift action to better protect the health of students, teachers and our communities.

“We’ve heard it from many public health experts – this is not the time to be loosening measures,” said STF President Patrick Maze. “Vaccines are rolling out, but we are not far enough along in the process to let our guard down. Relying on other precautions will reduce transmission in schools.”

Maze expresses deep frustration that at least 400,000 rapid response test kits received by the province in early February still are not being used despite Premier Scott Moe conceding that rapid tests should have been deployed sooner and would be available soon, including in schools.

“We are in a public health crisis and should be using every tool at our disposal. We know that approximately 40 percent of youth who contract COVID-19 don’t show symptoms,” said Maze. “These tests could have been used to fully understand caseloads in schools, emergence of variants and slowed community spread. Instead, we are headed for a third wave and students are once again having their education interrupted.”

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is asking Premier Moe to reconsider recent changes to public health measures and to deploy rapid response test kits immediately. According to government data, the test positivity rate in youth over the last two weeks has been around 12 percent. Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, has stated that anything more than five percent is concerning.

“We had an opportunity to get a handle on this and know the true case rates in schools, but instead the rapid response tests are sitting on a shelf somewhere. Schools are again closing as a result; this could have been avoided,” said Maze.

Maze urges all teachers, students and staff to remain vigilant and not extend their bubbles at this time.