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Alberta announces Phase 2 of free mask program as 230 additional cases of COVID-19 recorded since Friday

Dr. Hinshaw ‘strongly recommends’ wearing masks in public
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health updates her stance on wearing masks in public to avoid the transmission of COVID-19.

Effective immediately, Albertans will once again be able to receive free, non-medical masks at a number of locations across the province in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Premier Jason Kenney made the announcement Monday afternoon as Alberta’s chief medical officer of health confirmed an another 230 cases of COVID-19 in the province, which were identified over the last three days.

Masks will again be available at A&W, Tim Hortons and McDonald’s Canada locations. This time, Albertans can pick up masks either in the drive-thru or inside at the store counter.

“After consulting with our restaurant partners we determined in-store pickup could be done safely,” Shandro said.

Read more: Phase 1 of Alberta mask program complete, 20M more coming in July

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The province is providing an additional 20 million masks in Phase 2.

“I am strongly recommending that all of us wear masks anytime we are out and can’t maintain a two-metre distance from others, especially in indoor spaces,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said.

“Wearing one is the right thing to do.”

On top of partner restaurants, masks will also be available at First Nations and Metis settlements, courthouses, libraries, transit services in Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer, places of worship and social service organizations and senior care facilities.

Read more: Coronavirus: University of Alberta study finds growing public support for face masks

A full list of where the masks will be distributed is available on the government’s website.

Masks will also be provided to municipalities that don’t have a partner restaurant, Shandro said.

“We’re proud to be the first and still only province in Canada to do this,” he said. “We strongly advise Albertans to follow the physical distancing guidelines and to wear a mask when that isn’t possible.”

Kenney maintained the province isn’t looking at making masks mandatory in indoor spaces, saying Alberta can’t enforce its way out of the pandemic. He did urge all Albertans to follow the public health measures, including wearing masks when physical distancing isn’t possible.

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Read more: Coronavirus: Sylvan Lake officials to meet with province after weekend of crowded beaches

“We are not done with COVID, but we are learning how to live with it and our future success depends entirely on not letting our guard down,” he said.

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Though masks can slow the spread of COVID-19, Hinshaw said they’re not the only answer to the pandemic. She continues to urge Albertans to practice good hygiene, to maintain a distance of two metres away from someone not in your family or cohort and to follow all public health recommendations at home, at work and in your free time.

Also on Monday afternoon, the City of Edmonton announced it was asking for public input on how people feel about mandatory masks in public places. The survey launches on the city’s website on July 14 and is available until July 21.

Daily numbers

The province is no longer providing updated COVID-19 numbers over the weekend, so the numbers released by Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday included cases confirmed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Since Friday’s update, the province has confirmed an additional 230 cases of COVID-19 across the province.

Of those, 54 cases were confirmed on Friday, 96 cases were confirmed on Saturday and 80 cases were confirmed on Sunday.

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Saturday marked the most confirmed cases in Alberta since 96 were confirmed on May 10.

Another Albertan has died as a result of COVID-19, bringing the provincial death toll to 161. According to the province, a man in his 80s who lived in the North zone died. He was not connected to a continuing care facility.

As of Monday, there were 45 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, with 10 of those in intensive care.

To date, 7,989 Albertans have recovered and the province has performed 540,102 tests.

There are currently 676 active cases across the province. Of those, the majority are in the Calgary zone with 267. There are 199 active cases in the Edmonton zone, 35 in the Central zone, 110
in the South zone and 53 in the North zone. There are 12 active cases who are not associated to a known zone.

While exact numbers were not provided, Hinshaw said there were more confirmed cases with an unknown source today than there were a week ago.

Hinshaw responds to large crowds at Alberta beaches over the last week
Hinshaw responds to large crowds at Alberta beaches over the last week

According to Kenney, 55 per cent of the province’s active cases are under the age of 40 and there has been a “particular increase” in confirmed cases in those between the ages of 20 and 39 years old.

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While there are no regions that are currently subjected to additional health measures, there are two regions on the province’s relaunch status map due to the number of confirmed cases that are classified as “watch.”

County of Warner No. 5 in southern Alberta is showing 40 active cases, while Mackenzie County in the northern part of the province has 13 active cases.

A region is put in the “watch” category when there are at least 10 active cases and more than 50 active cases per 100,000, according to the province.

Health officials warn against Albertans becoming complacent about COVID-19
Health officials warn against Albertans becoming complacent about COVID-19
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