Students won't have to wear masks in the classroom if they aren't face to face, but mask wearing will be encouraged. (Screenshot from Red Deer Public School video).

NDP and Alberta Teachers’ Association critical of Alberta government’s incentive, COVID measures

Premier Jason Kenney’s plan to pay people to get vaccinated and a return to mask mandates, curfews and restrictions “punishes all Albertans,” says Alberta’s NDP.

On Friday, Jason Kenney announced the province will pay $100 to Albertans who get their first and second vaccine shots, but those who have already gotten their shots aren’t eligible.

“Jason Kenney wants to go back to restrictions. I want Albertans to move forward with (vaccine) passports,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley.

“What’s more, Kenney is taking millions of dollars from Albertans who have done the right thing and give that money to those who have refused to follow the advice of doctors, nurses and health care professionals.”

Meanwhile, the Alberta Teachers’ Association is criticizing the provincial government for exempting schools from the provincewide masking mandate that was announced Friday.

“Tightly gathered indoor groups of 30-plus unvaccinated, unmasked people will continue to occur with the blessing of government,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.

“Alberta’s elementary students are crammed into inadequately ventilated spaces, and the government is shirking its responsibility to offer the bare minimum protection for those who cannot be vaccinated and their families.”

READ MORE: Alberta announces temporary COVID-19 measures

Starting Saturday, the government is reinstating a provincewide mask mandate in all indoor public spaces and workplaces, except in classrooms, where decisions are being left to local school boards.

Schilling said it is “asinine” for schools to be exempt, as the government is recommending unvaccinated Albertans limit indoor social gatherings to a maximum of 10 people.

“The government lacks the courage required to do the right thing and is leaving school boards to clean up the mess and take the blame,” said Schilling.

“In fact, government MLAs and other officials have inflamed tensions recently by suggesting publicly that school board masking mandates run contrary to (chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s) advice. This is not helpful.

“An immediate adjustment must be announced to take effect across the province on Tuesday. Mandatory masking in all schools and a return of contact tracing for students in elementary classrooms must be implemented.”

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