P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison defended the province's back-to-school plan at her COVID-19 briefing Tuesday.
The plan, which was released on Monday, has come under criticism from some people who say the province's guidelines were vague and too lax.
One key point of contention was the plan's mask recommendations. P.E.I.'s Home and School Federation and at least one epidemiologist say the government should've kept mask requirements in most scenarios as opposed to just suggesting their use.
But Morrison said it's up to the school system to turn her recommendations into policy.
"We have something fairly unique here in terms of our testing and our border measures and the isolation plans that are in place," Morrison said. "I made a recommendation last year for masks in school and that was implemented in policy in the school; it was not a mandate that I put in place.
"I made a recommendation that I anticipate the school system will put in place. I think somehow that wasn't as clear perhaps when it was released."
No vaccine mandate
Morrison also justified the lack of a vaccination mandate for staff in the guidelines, saying that it is something that should only be considered if schools are otherwise unable to achieve high vaccination rates.
"We want to make sure we encourage and do everything we can to maximize vaccination rates," Morrison said.
"But I think when you get into mandatory vaccination it's something for the schools and for other areas to look at if they are not able to achieve the vaccination rates that are required and important for the setting that they're in."
She said she's currently anticipating vaccination rates among teachers and staff are high. If it turns out that is not the case, she said the province would need to work on a mandate.
Morrison said schools would have info on the vaccination status of students to help in the event of outbreaks, but she said if rates aren't high enough, they could use the lists to target specific schools or groups with education about vaccines and vaccination clinics.
The University of Prince Edward Island announced Tuesday that it was making vaccinations mandatory for students, faculty and staff.
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