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Action is needed now - for Manitoba to prevent the new COVID-19 variants from coming to Manitoba

Action is needed  now  to prevent the new  variant forms of the COVID-19  virus (SARS-CoV2)  from coming to Manitoba. Major new variants of the virus have been found in the United Kingdom, in South Africa and in Brazil.  While these new variants may not cause more severe  disease (this is good), the new variants spread faster and are more infectious than the strain of COVID-19 virus we have been dealing with so far (this is bad).  The variants  will be harder to contain than the original strain of COVID-19 and therefore it is imperative that Manitoba act  now to limit the spread of these variants to Manitoba. We need, immediately, to review protocols for people coming from any jurisdiction where the virus has  been found (including Ontario, British Columbia  and Alberta).   Individuals coming from these areas should all self-isolate for 14 days (currently this is not required  for individuals from British Columbia and Alberta). Testing protocols for International travelers currently re
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Lead Contamination and Children in the care of Child and Family Services

On Monday January 11, I had the opportunity in the Legislative  Committee dealing with the Annual Report of the  Manitoba Advocate  for Children and Youth, to ask questions about the possibility of children in the care of Child and Family Services having high lead levels due to exposure to lead.  My  questions and the responses of Ms Ainsley Krone Deputy Manitoba Advocate for Children and  Youth are below - from Hansard. Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights):     I have a question which I'd like to bring up. In the report of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth, there's a section here on where there are service gaps, and clearly, it's important to identify areas where there may be service gaps.       And I want to refer to a report that was done in Pennsylvania which showed that children who were in foster care, when they were tested before they entered care, had rather high levels of lead in their blood such that nearly 90 per cent of these children had levels of lea

COVID-19 and Children in the care of Child and Family Services

Monday Jan 11, I had an opportunity during a Legislative Committee on the Annual Report of the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth to ask about the impact of the COVID pandemic on children in the care of Child and  Family Services.  My questions to Ms Ainsley Krone the Deputy Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth and her answers are below - from Hansard.  Mr. Gerrard:   I want to come to the situation of the COVID pandemic. Are there concerns about the care of children in the COVID pandemic? Are you seeing an increased number of reports of problems–you've been following suicide, for example–and other concerns. Where are the gaps now because of the COVID pandemic? Ms. Krone:   Thanks for that question, Dr. Gerrard.       I would say that, you know, it's still, as you can appreciate, pretty early on in terms of the broader analysis of the impact of the pandemic and–but when we look at what's happening for young people in our province, the concerns that are being r

Homelessness in Winnipeg: we can do much better to help those experiencing homelessness

 Today we released our Manitoba Liberal Caucus report on homelessness in Winnipeg.  We recommend four major steps to be taken: 1) There is a need to provide additional daytime  and 24/7 warming shelters.  We call on the City of Winnipeg and the Province of Manitoba to open several community centres so that those who are homeless will have a place to be warm during the day, to get coffee and a bun and to use the washroom.  2) There is a need to shorten the wait time for people to get Employment and Income Assistance (EIA).  EIA is the on-ramp for someone who is homeless to be able to have the financial support to get an apartment.  Currently it takes three weeks just to get an intake appointment to get EIA. And for many who are homeless who miss getting the intake call, there is another three week wait.  We call for the Province to dramatically shorten this wait, so that 90% of people can get EIA in 24 hours as a major step forward in helping people get housed.  3)There is a need for ma

Wishing all a Safe and Happy Christmas and New Year

A safe and Happy Christmas to all, at this tumultuous time of the COVID-19 pandemic.   For some who have lost loved ones, this is a particular difficult time.   We need to remember these tragedies and remember the contributions that those we have lost have made.  We need to reach out to those who are alone or who are suffering.  And even as we have hope for the future, that hope is building on the contributions of many, including the contributions by those we have lost.  Our hope for the future can start  with the new vaccines which are rolling out.  Our hope  from  the future will build on the friends and family we have  and the friends we will get to know this coming year.   As your MLA  in River Heights, my  team is there to help you.   If we can assist  you, send me an email at jon.gerrard@leg.gov.mb.ca.    

Premier Pallister is wrong when he says no one could have predicted the speed and severity of the second wave

Premier Brian Pallister is just wrong in saying yesterday that "Nobody could have predicted the degree to which COVID came fast."  He was referring to the speed and severity of the COVID-19 virus spreading this fall in Manitoba.   Contrary to what the Premier says, many people were predicting the Second Wave of the pandemic  would  be worse than the first.  Historically this has often happened with pandemics in the past.  In Manitoba in 2009 the H1N1 pandemic was worse in the second wave than during the first wave.  The speed of the pandemic was not a surprise.  COVID-19 infections are well known to rise exponentially when adequate containment measures are not in place.   In jurisdictions like Italy and New York as well as elsewhere we had examples of sudden explosions of cases when the spread of the virus was increasing exponentially.  There was already evidence to suggest that the virus would be worse in winter months, and that spread would be faster as people moved indoors

Putting a focus on addressing homelessness

For the last  several weeks I have been putting a focus on getting better attention to the need to address homelessness.   Part of  this effort was the article below which appeared in the Sou-wester on December 2.     

Conservatives bring closure to Poverty Reduction Committee

Last night in the Legislative Committee dealing with Poverty Reduction, the Conservatives abruptly brought in closure at 7:30 pm. They used their majority to vote to end the discussion even though there remained many questions yet to be asked.  With Bill 29 now before the Legislature, a bill in which the Conservatives will end the annual meetings of the poverty committee, this could be the last meeting of the committee to discuss poverty and social inclusion.   The Conservatives closed the committee for this year, and are also doing it for all years. In my experience over 20 years, last night's committee was unusual in the speed with which the Conservatives moved to terminate the committee meeting.   Once upon a time Brian Pallister said addressing poverty was his top priority.   Yesterday his team showed it is no longer a priority.    It is sad because this happened in a year when evidence suggests poverty is increasing.   For example, the number of people going to Winnipeg Harv

Reporting of COVID-19 test results is still taking far too long

In today's Free Press, it is reported that "Roussin said, people are waiting an average of 55 hours to receive the results of a routine COVID-19 test."    Fifty-five hours is far too long.   Ninety per cent of results need to be reported in 24 hours if testing and contact tracing are to be successful.   Consider this.  Individuals exposed to a person who is has the COVID-19 infection can start transmitting the infection to others on the fourth day afterwards.  This means that reporting of test  results needs to be done in 24 hours and contact tracing needs to be done in the next 24 hours if testing and contact tracing are to effective in helping to control the pandemic.  The third day is needed to catch  the last ten percent of cases missed on the first two days.  An average of 55 hours is far too long.  It means that about half of people do not receive their results for more than 2 days and this means it is likely the contact tracing will not be done before the virus spr

We need better organization and coordination of provincial support for those who are homeless in Manitoba

Wednesday, Dec 2, I asked in Question Period about the need for better provincial coordination and organization in their help for those who are homeless.   There is not now a web site with critical daily information about the availability of shelter beds, of transitional housing, of warming shelters and  other resources for those who are homeless.  We need this level of daily information so that there is publicly available information on the availability of supports. While many who are homeless may not have quick access to the internet, some do, and for others those who are helping them can get this information and share it. We need this web site to help us see the picture of what is available and more easily help those who are homeless get the support they need. We also need to see much better organization and coordination of Employment and  Income Assistance (EIA).  EIA is currently understaffed and the wait  time for getting an intake appointment for EIA is three weeks. This is far