As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Albertans will now have access to free non-medical masks at almost 600 drive-thru locations across the province.
The masks are free of charge and there is no purchase necessary at the restaurant.
The initiative, first announced on May 29, is part of the province’s relaunch strategy. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said providing the masks will help the province move forward with reopening Alberta’s economy as safely as possible amid that pandemic.
“We’re proud to be the first province in Canada to support residents with free masks for use in situations where physical distancing may not be possible,” Shandro said in a news release on Monday.
“Thank you to our restaurant partners, franchise owners and staff members who are volunteering their time and effort to distribute these masks.”
The masks will be distributed as one package of four per person.
The cost of the initiative is about $20 million, however, when announcing the initiative in late May, Shandro noted that by partnering with the fast-food restaurants, the government was able to significantly reduce the costs of distribution.
It’s an initiative that the restaurants were happy to help with.
“Our restaurant owners in Alberta and their team members are eager to participate in this important program to distribute masks to Albertans,” Tim Hortons COO Mike Hancock said.
“The opportunity to partner with the Alberta government on this initiative is another way for us to show our commitment to the communities we serve,” said Jeff Kroll, restaurant support officer and COVID-19 response lead with McDonald’s Canada.
“Our restaurant teams are ready to distribute non-medical masks effectively and safely to all Albertans.”
While mask use is not mandatory, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has recommended Albertans wear a non-medical mask when two metres of physical distance cannot be maintained, such as on public transit.
The provincial government noted that masks have also been made available to municipalities across Alberta, including First Nations communities, Métis settlements and rural and remote communities that do not have access to the partnering drive-thru restaurants.
Additional masks are also being given to senior facilities and organizations that support vulnerable populations.
Both Calgary and Edmonton have also been supplied with an additional 500,000 masks that officials said will be distributed mainly through the city’s transit operations.
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