The Manitoba government’s plan to allow teachers to drive into North Dakota for a COVID-19 vaccine appears to be a work in progress.
Premier Brian Pallister announced the plan Thursday as an addition to an existing program for truckers who cross the border.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum’s office said Friday the idea was still a work in progress.
“Gov. Burgum and Premier Pallister spoke directly about this topic via phone midday Wednesday, and the governor was receptive to the concept,” Mike Nowatzki, Burgum’s communications director, said in an email.
“Since then, our teams have been working out the details and logistics, and we hope to have more information to release next week.”
On Thursday Pallister said teachers would be required to return to Manitoba immediately after getting their shots. He said they could then return to work because they wouldn’t be required to quarantine under the plan.
But that would require the federal government to add teachers to the list of essential workers exempt from mandatory 14-day quarantines after returning from another country, something Ottawa appeared noncommittal about Friday.
A spokesperson for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said the quarantine requirement is part of the effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and noted that teachers can be given priority for vaccines within any province.
“We’ve provided over 550,000 COVID-19 vaccines to Manitoba, who are responsible for deciding priorities amongst their population. Some provinces have prioritized education workers for vaccines,” Cole Davidson wrote in an email.
Currently, Manitoba teachers are only prioritized for vaccines if they live or work in hot zones such as the province’s north and core areas of Winnipeg and Brandon.
Manitoba Teachers’ Society president James Bedford has panned Pallister’s plan, saying it falls short and includes many hurdles.
“What it is saying is, if you live close enough (to the border), if you have access to a car … if you’ve got the time available to you, here’s something that you could do,” he said Thursday.
Bedford said members of the teachers’ union are concerned about rising COVID-19 infections in Winnipeg in recent weeks.
He suggested all public schools in the capital should switch to remote learning for two weeks to help reduce spread of the virus.