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Thompson teachers get gift of jab

·3 min read

Despite COVID-19 cases continuing to climb over the weekend, dozens of teachers in Thompson had reason to celebrate — they received vaccines unexpectedly.

A stockpile of extra doses prompted Cross Lake First Nation to open up appointments for immunizations to educators at a pop-up site hosted in Thompson last week.

Roughly 180 teachers received their first dose of the Moderna vaccine at the site, thanks to Cross Lake Chief David Monias and council, said Cathy Pellizzaro, president of the Thompson Teachers’ Association.

“Their generosity has touched our hearts more than they could imagine. Thompson teachers are so happy,” said Pellizzaro, who teared up when describing their excitement during a phone call Sunday.

The local union president, who represents 270 educators, said the parking lot of the site was full soon after word got out on Thursday that vaccines were being offered. The clinic was open to teachers Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

While she was unable to get her vaccine through the clinic — in part, because she was busy informing her members of the development, Pellizzaro said she is ecstatic to be nearing the age of eligibility for the general population: Manitobans aged 56 and older and First Nations people who are 36 and older can book an appointment at present.

Chief David Monias said Sunday 65 per cent of adults from his community have received their first doses. Since Cross Lake had extra supply, leaders invited residents of nearby First Nations, as well as educators, police officers, firefighters, and other front-line workers who interact with the community to get a jab.

“We’ve got to attack (the virus) the same way that it’s attacking our people — without discrimination, so we’ve got to make sure that we try to protect our people the best way we can by creating safe environments, wherever we are,” said Monias, noting many members of Cross Lake live in or travel to Thompson frequently.

Monias said offering neighbours vaccine helps everyone in the long run because it will create a “bigger bubble” of safety in the north.

At the same time, another First Nations community is grappling with the arrival of a COVID-19 variant this weekend.

Fisher River Cree Nation, located nearly 200 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has been alerted of a positive case of the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first detected in the U.K.

In an update posted to the community’s website Saturday, leadership urged residents to remain calm and encouraged them to continue following public health protocols and booking vaccine appointments.

“We remind the community again to please not travel unless essential and to please follow the proper safety protocols,” states the notice.

On Sunday, Manitoba announced one death related to COVID-19 and 170 new confirmed cases of the virus.

A man in his 70s in the Prairie Mountain Health region is the latest to succumb to the virus. He is one of 959 people who have died of COVID-19 during the pandemic.

There are 132 people in hospital with COVID-19 related illnesses, including 33 patients in intensive care.

Ninety-six of the new cases have been identified in the Winnipeg health region, followed by 36 cases in the north, 18 cases in Prairie Mountain, 13 cases in Southern Health and seven cases in the Interlake-Eastern region.

The current five-day test positivity rate is 5.6 per cent provincially and 5.5 per cent in Winnipeg.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press