A few hiccups in first days of free drive-thru mask distribution
Alberta Health checking claims people receiving more than their fair share
Alberta Health is working to address some bumps in the road with its initiative to distribute non-medical masks to Albertans through restaurant drive-thrus, after receiving reports some guests were handed more than their share of masks.
Under the program that started Monday, people can visit participating Mcdonald’s, Tim Hortons and A&W drive-thrus to receive one package of four masks per person.
The provincial government has allotted 20 million non-medical masks to be given to Albertans for free, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as the economy reopens. Authorities are asking people to “use the honour system” and take only one package.
It’s encouraged people to ask for a few more packages to deliver to their friends and family who cannot access the drive-thrus, so a single person can receive up to 10 packages — or 40 masks — during their visit. However, people have reported that they were handed a bag of 40 masks without asking for any or when they requested only one or two.
Tom Mcmillan, a spokesman for Alberta Health, said Wednesday that all restaurant partners have been provided with the same distribution instructions and it is hoped those directions are followed.
“If, for example, only two allotments are requested, then only two allotments should be provided,” Mcmillan said in a statement, adding that no purchase is necessary when picking up the masks.
“Any time we are made aware of a specific incident at a specific location, we are working quickly with our corporate partners to address the situation. We know that mistakes can occasionally happen as the masks are distributed, and we appreciate Albertans bringing any issues to our attention.”
Health Minister Tyler Shandro said during a news conference Tuesday that the government trusts Albertans to be honest and fair when accepting the masks, which is one reason they didn’t implement some sort of registration for the masks.
“I made it very clear that we have to operate on the honour system, just like in the same ways when it comes to the pandemic we’ve been operating on the honour system already. It’s only as an entire province, all of us complying with the chief medical officer of health’s orders, that we’ve been successful to date,” said Shandro.
Alberta Health hasn’t yet received data about the number of masks distributed, but they have heard from participating restaurants that there has been a steady uptake in people at their drive-thrus.
When requesting masks at the Mcdonald’s and A&W drive-thrus in the Deerfoot Meadows shopping area on Wednesday afternoon, the order-display screens took note of the number of mask kits given to keep track of inventory.
Mcdonald’s Canada said in a statement the company was made aware of a few occasions during which guests received more masks than requested and permitted.
“We’re proud to be part of this effort, and we’re learning as we go. We’re following up with the restaurant teams to make sure the policy and procedures are reviewed and followed,” said Mcdonald’s Canada.
A&W did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Tim Hortons deferred to Alberta Health’s statement.
The non-medical masks have also been provided to many municipalities, First Nations communities, Metis settlements and local agencies, including rural and remote communities with limited or no access to drive-thrus. More information is available online at alberta.ca/masks.
Free masks from the province to help in the fight against the coronavirus are handed out at a Mcdonald’s drive-thru on Wednesday.