Edmonton

Alberta partners with fast-food chains to offer free masks at drive-thrus

Albertans will be able to pick up free non-medical masks from the drive-thrus of A&W, McDonald's and Tim Hortons starting in early June.

Masks meant to help prevent spread of COVID-19 when physical distancing is difficult

Alberta plans to distribute 20 million non-medical masks for free at hundreds of drive-thru fast-food restaurants. (CBC)

Albertans will be able to pick up free non-medical masks from the drive-thrus of A&W, McDonald's and Tim Hortons starting in early June.

The Alberta government is distributing 20 million masks meant to help limit the spread of COVID-19, said Health Minister Tyler Shandro during a press conference Friday.

The masks are for situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as on public transit or while shopping, Shandro said.

"We recognize that as the province relaunches and we all adapt to our new normal, we all may sometimes find ourselves in a situation where physical distancing may not be possible."

The province is distributing the masks through the three restaurant chains because they provide an ease of access, said the province's health minister.

"We chose this method, quite honestly, because these partners have access through these 600 sites to about 95 per cent of our population," Shandro said. "These three partners are doing it without expense to the Alberta taxpayer."

Each Albertan is allowed one package of four masks, while supplies last. The masks also come with instructions on how to wear and dispose of them. No purchase is necessary.

"This is not meant to provide Albertans with an unlimited supply," Shandro said. "We're encouraging people to source their own masks on an ongoing basis."

The province will also look at other ways to distribute the masks, like at high-risk transmission areas such as transit and places of worship, for people who can't access one of the drive-thru locations.

A budget of $350,000 has been set aside to fill the gap in distribution, Shandro said.

The province is also working with municipalities, First Nations communities, Métis settlements and local agencies to distribute the non-medical masks to those who need them.

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