Alberta's mask giveaway program comes to a close

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Alberta’s free mask giveaway program has ended, just after mandatory face covering rules came into effect in communities such as Calgary and Edmonton.

The province distributed 40 million non-medical masks to Albertans — close to two-thirds of them at A&W, McDonald’s and Tim Hortons restaurants — over two phases throughout June and July.

Some of those masks were also given away through transit agencies, First Nations communities and Métis Settlements, as well as places of worship.

The UCP government has no further plans to distribute free masks.

“The program was intended to offer free non-medical masks to Albertans to supplement an individual’s own efforts to acquire their own supply of non-medical masks,” the province said in a news release.

“Albertans who wish to use masks in situations where physical distancing is not possible are encouraged to support their local pharmacies, grocery stores and hardware store when buying masks.”


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Around 3.6 million masks were distributed to long-term care and seniors’ facilities, organizations that support vulnerable Albertans, library boards, courthouses and food banks.

Although Premier Jason Kenney has encouraged the use of masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, he has said his government won’t make them mandatory provincewide.

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Instead, some municipalities have taken it upon themselves to implement local face covering orders.

Masks became mandatory in all public indoor spaces in Calgary on Saturday. That includes retail stores, recreation centres and city transit.

Those who violate the bylaw face a $50 fine.

Face coverings are also mandatory in certain spaces in Edmonton and Banff.

Jason Darrah, a spokesman for the Town of Banff, said compliance has been as high as 90 to 99 per cent so far.

The town’s bylaw, which requires people to don face coverings indoors and along the downtown pedestrian zone, came into effect Friday at noon.

“We’re absolutely thrilled and surprised,” Darrah said.

“Right away from noon, there was a really good compliance.”

The town is supplying free disposable masks in its downtown, but he said most people are coming prepared with their own.

“We just thought it would take a little while,” Darrah said.

“With any bylaw, there’s usually a period of transition, but I think people were looking forward to it in a lot of ways.”
Twitter: @SammyHudes