Free face mask distribution returns to Alberta drive-thrus, province to review COVID-19 response
CALGARY -- Albertans can once again pick up free, non-medical face masks at drive-thru locations, as the province begins to investigate the potential for a second wave of infections.
The government says 20 million more masks are now available for distribution and free of charge at participating locations and other businesses.
This comes after 20 million masks were handed out in June in the first phase of the free mask program, something the province's health minister deemed a "huge success."
In addition to the new supply at A&W, McDonalds and Tim Hortons drive-thrus, the government is also providing personal protection equipment to the following locations:
- Municipalities without easy access to a restaurant partner location
- First Nations and Metis settlements
- Places of worship
- Transit services provincewide, including in Calgary and Edmonton – 7-Eleven Canada is providing no-cost shipping of masks from the government’s warehouses to transit system operators across the province
- Seniors organizations and independent living facilities
- Long-term care and supportive living facilities
- Women’s shelters, homeless shelters and street outreach programs
- Addiction treatment centres
- Other organizations that have highlighted a need for masks
Masks are not mandatory in Alberta and Premier Kenney says he would not sign off on any legislation mandating the use of masks, however officials say masks are recommended for situations where maintaining a distance of two metres is not possible.
Calgary is considering joining other major Canadian cities — including Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — in making masks mandatory in public indoor places. Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the city could implement a bylaw to do so within a week if Calgarians aren’t willing to take matters into their own hands and help prevent a second wave of infections.
Is Alberta prepared for a second wave of infections?
The Alberta government is holding a review of its COVID-19 response to investigate whether the province is adequately prepared to deal with a potential second wave of the virus.
The province has opened a request for proposal to organizations to conduct a third-party review of the government’s handling of the crisis that explore the health system response, economic response, governance and decision-making, procurement, engagement with other governments and stakeholders and communications.
The government wants to see results of the review by the fall, which is when a number of experts believe a second wave could hit to coincide with the annual flu season.
"It’s certainly possible it could happen sooner than the fall depending on behaviors and depending on how people are interacting and taking all of these protective measures into consideration," said Dr. Vanessa Meier-Stephenson, an infectious disease expert at the University of Calgary. "It’s not just the temperatures that are prompting increased infectivity, it’s behaviours as we open more things up, as we have more spaces where people are congregating it puts more people at risk in that sense."
The deadline for submissions is Aug. 10 and a successful candidate is expected to be chosen by Aug.19.