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St. Albert fast-food restaurants serving up free face masks

Local A&W and Tim Hortons locations are participating in a provincial program to deliver non-medical face masks.
The province is partnering with fast-food chains including A&W, McDonald's, and Tim Hortons to distribute non-medical face masks to Albertans for free. BRITTANY GERVAIS/St. Albert Gazette

Would you like a face mask with your meal?

The province is partnering with fast-food chains including A&W, McDonald's and Tim Hortons to distribute millions of three-layer non-medical face masks to Albertans for free. 

Masks will be available at almost 600 restaurant partner locations across Alberta beginning in early June. They will come in packages of four and be handed out one package per person.

Around 95 per cent of Albertans are located within 10 kilometres of these drive-thrus, according to the province.

All nine Tim Hortons restaurants in St. Albert will be participating in the program, said Michael Oliveira, senior manager of communications. 

Bob Podritske, franchise owner of the Erin Ridge location as well as the St. Albert Trail location next to Wine and Beyond, said he's expecting his restaurants to start handing out masks as of June 8.

"I think it's great; anything we can do to help our fellow Albertans be safer," he said. 

"We certainly don't get compensated for it, we're just doing this because it's the right thing to do. And I think any business would do it, but we feel honoured to help protect our neighbours."

Distributing masks through drive-thrus will give people fast and easy access should they need it, he said. The drive-thru at the Erin Ridge location is open 24 hours a day.

"Perhaps you damage your mask in the evening doing something, and you want a mask to take to work. You just need to wake up five minutes earlier and hit our drive-thru after June 8, and we're going to have them until supplies (run out)."

Two of St. Albert's A&W restaurants, located in Erin Ridge and on Hebert Road, will be participating as well, according to Jessica Trepanier, media relations. 

"We're excited about it," said Tina Gibson, marketing manager for Chirofoods Ltd., an Edmonton-based company partnered with local A&W restaurants.

"We're happy to be able to support the Alberta government and help get the safety precautions out to community members so they can feel safe going out in the public." 

Requests for comment from McDonald's Canada have not been returned.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the initiative will provide an extra layer of protection to keep Albertans safe as the province reopens its economy.

Mask use is not mandatory, but can be an option for situations where maintaining two-metres of physical distance isn't possible, like public transit and places of worship.

"Alberta is the first, and as far as I know, the only province that has decided to distribute masks province-wide," Shandro said.

"This program will help Albertans get back to work and enjoy everyday activities safely as we all continue to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our province."

Albertans who wish to use non-medical masks are still encouraged to purchase their own supply from local retailers, in addition to using those provided by the government, Shandro said, as the province does not have the ability to give every Albertan their own unlimited supply.

The approximately 20 million non-medical masks will be distributed at a cost of around $20 million. Partnering with the fast-food restaurants will cut down on the distribution cost to government, which is around $350,000, Shandro said.

The program will run based on the honour system. No purchase is necessary.

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

Brittany Gervais

About the Author: Brittany Gervais

Brittany Gervais joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2020. She writes about city hall, business, general news and features.
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