Alberta to distribute 20 million face masks at A&W, McDonald's and Tim Hortons drive-thrus
CALGARY -- Would you like a mask with that?
The Province of Alberta will begin distributing non-medical face masks at A&W, McDonald's and Tim Hortons drive-thrus across the province in early June, Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Friday.
The province received an order of 20 million masks earlier this month at a cost of about $15 million and Shandro said they will be distributed in packs of four.
"The masks will be free of charge and no purchase will be necessary to obtain them," he said.
There are around 600 drive-thrus in Alberta and Shandro said 95 per cent of the population lives within 10 kilometres of one.
"Using the drive-thrus for distribution also ensures physical distancing can be maintained because people stay in their vehicles when picking up the masks. For these reasons, masks will only be available at the drive-thrus."
The masks are not part of the provincial supply of PPE for frontline workers.
"The masks are three-layer, non-medical face masks with ear loops intended to filter germs and pollution particles," said Shandro.
The province is working on a distribution system for communities that don't have drive-thrus and for people who don't have access to a vehicle.
The intention is to supplement rather than supply masks to the entire population.
"I encourage all Albertans to source their own supply of non-medical masks from local retailers or to consider using a homemade mask when they're out in their community," said Shandro.
"Our government cannot supply Albertans with unlimited masks. This allotment of four masks should be considered a supplement to store-bought or homemade masks."
Albertans were receptive to the idea.
“It’s definitely a good idea for now to help people out who can’t afford them," said Ronan Kinash at a McDonald's drive-thru near Canada Olympic Park on Friday. "If they’re coming for food, they may as well grab a mask.”
Tanya Doucette, who owns eight Tim Hortons in central Alberta, said safety of staff and customers has been taken into account.
“We do have acrylic shields at our drive thrus," she said. "Our team members are wearing non-medical grade masks as well as gloves and face shields so we’ve taken lots of precaution in the restaurant to ensure it’s safe both inside and at our drive-thru."
More than one pack of masks can be obtained at a time.
"Look, this is on the honour system, we're not asking for folks to bring in their health care card and get it punched to show they've already picked up," said Shandro. "But Albertans are responsible and they have shown us that throughout their response to this pandemic. I think that's why we've been more successful than many other large jurisdictions on this continent, because Albertans can be trusted."
The cost of the distribution will be about $350,000.
More information is available online.
Albertans are encouraged to remain at least two metres away from other people while in public and to wear a mask when that isn't possible, like when riding transit or in a grocery store.
The province began a phased economic relaunch earlier this month, which allows 50 per cent capacity at dine-in restaurants, bars, pubs and cafes.
Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 people and indoor gatherings can have a maximum of 15 people.
As of Thursday afternoon, there are 6,955 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta, with 6,160 of those considered recovered.
A total of 50 people are in hospital, four in ICU, and there have been 143 deaths attributed to the virus.
(With files from Kathy Le)