P.E.I.’s chief public health officer said Tuesday she and her team have been on the receiving end of “inappropriate, bullying, demeaning” comments and behaviour.
“They have been directed towards our team and our partners, and this is not acceptable,” said Dr. Heather Morrison at her regular media briefing, before closing with her usual comments to be patient and kind.
Morrison did not specify what the comments or behaviours were. She has previously made similar complaints.
Her remarks on Tuesday come as the provincial opposition parties, the home and school federation and at least one epidemiologist have criticized P.E.I.’s back-to-school plan, released Monday, as too lax — though those criticisms in the media have been civil.
Premier Dennis King followed up by leaping to Morrison’s defence, saying that people are free to express their thoughts but that only one thing has “pissed me off” throughout the pandemic: “When our health professionals get attacked like they do.”
‘I stand with Dr. Morrison,’ King said at a COVID-19 public briefing on Tuesday. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)
He said being attacked is part of his job, but not hers.
“I hear politicians questioning, saying we should do this or that, and I would just say to every Prince Edward Islander: If you were in [my] job, would you take the advice of a partisan politician or the chief public health officer who is a Rhodes Scholar, who is an infectious disease expert?” he told reporters.
“To me that decision is easy, so I stand with Dr. Morrison.”
Morrison then became teary-eyed.
Earlier in the briefing, Morrison said the province is in preliminary discussions with the federal government about a pilot project to make easy-to-use self-test kits available to some Island children early in the school year, when there is typically an uptick in respiratory illnesses among kids.
Morrison said there is one new case of COVID-19 in P.E.I. The person had travelled outside Atlantic Canada and was a close contact of a previous case.
The province has six active cases, and has seen a total of 225 since the pandemic was declared. There have been 12 cases of the delta variant, she said.
P.E.I. Education Minister Natalie Jameson, left, Morrison, centre, and King, right, attend the briefing on Tuesday. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio-Canada)
Vaccinations as of Saturday stood at 90.6 per cent of the eligible population with one dose and 77.5 per cent with two.
However, Morrison said, that means more than 50,000 residents haven’t been fully vaccinated, including 19,000 children under 12, for whom no vaccine has been approved in Canada. More than 31,000 adults haven’t had two doses.
In the over-60 age group, the rate of full vaccination is well over 90 per cent. But in the 12-39 group, only 62 per cent are fully vaccinated.
She said that all Health P.E.I. clinics are accepting walk-ins with no appointment for both first and second doses, and for both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Morrison also said there are some long-term care homes where the vaccination rate among staff is “too low.” Homes that do not have 85 per cent of their staff vaccinated will need to conduct regular testing of partially vaccinated and unvaccinated staff members.
She said they will also work with long-term care homes on how to expand vaccine coverage.
“Some of it’s just vaccine hesitancy and some of it is turnover of new staff,” she said.
Morrison said the province has received just over 361,000 P.E.I. Pass applications since June from people seeking to arrive in the province, breaking down as follows:
47 per cent from people travelling within Atlantic Canada. 29 per cent from people travelling from outside Atlantic Canada. 22 per cent from P.E.I. residents.
Justice and Public Safety is receiving about 4,500 applications a day, she said.
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