RM OF STANLEY — A Manitoba woman is raising concerns over a new initiative in the RM of Stanley that encourages residents to host neighbourhood block parties despite having the lowest vaccination rate in the province.
Ashley Hoitink lives in the region with her husband and six-month-old son. She found out about the incentive from an email her husband received through an RM mailing list.
“We were just confused about why the focus was on gathering when you have the lowest vaccinated RM, when I think the focus should be on getting people vaccinated,” Hoitink told CTV News. “I think lots of people are pretending the pandemic’s over, and it’s not.”
According to the province’s COVID-19 dashboard, the RM of Stanley currently has a total vaccine uptake of 22 per cent, with 19.4 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.
Hoitink emailed the RM over her concerns, but has yet to hear back.
Hoitink is a teacher and is currently on maternity leave. She plans to return to work in February.
She said the move is discouraging because she already feels isolated, and doesn’t feel safe bringing her son to many places.
“He’s six months old. He can’t get vaccinated. He’s at risk,” Hoitink said. “He’s stuck at home with me a lot.”
According to the RM of Stanley’s website, the new initiative is aimed at community building.
“We need residents willing to host a block party for their area. Hosts will receive a host package which includes everything they need to get organized along with a few prizes,” the website said.
The website also features a downloadable block party kit giving hosts instructions, things to consider and an application form to submit to the RM office.
The kit also encourages applicants to follow current public health guidelines, and links to the province’s COVID-19 page.
Reeve Morris Olafson said the RM launched the initiative a few weeks ago, and a few people have already signed up.
However, he said the parties are not meant for large groups, and are a way for the community to reconnect after so much separation.
“We want people to get together. It’s been 18 months since people associated with each other and it’s opening up slightly, slowly. Right now, I can see that already,” he said. “It’s a small attempt on our part to facilitate some of these events.”
He said despite low vaccination rates, it’s important for the well-being of communities to slowly and safely return to normal life.
He also believes vaccination rates will continue to climb in the RM.
“There are more people getting vaccinated all the time. We’ve finally got supplies that people can actually walk up and get a shot without waiting for three, four weeks before they get their turn,” he said.
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