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City of Brandon, Maple Leaf Foods, to distribute thousands of free masks to community

Anyone in Brandon who wants a face mask will have the opportunity to pick a bag of 25 up for free Wednesday.
Anyone in Brandon who wants a face mask will have the opportunity to pick a bag of 25 up for free Wednesday. Getty Images

Anyone in Brandon who wants or needs a face mask will have a chance to pick up a bag for free on Wednesday.

The city has partnered with Maple Leaf Foods Inc. to provide a bag of 25, three-ply, disposable masks to every household.

“We were scrambling to organize and we’re really glad we got this one off the ground,” says Janet Riley, vice president of communications and public affairs with Maple Leaf.

Read more: Manitoba reports 40 new cases of coronavirus Friday, tying record for highest daily case count

“We’ll look for more days to get more masks out, we’ll see how many we’re able to distribute tomorrow.”

Riley says 500,000 masks were on route from Toronto to Brandon Tuesday, where some 10,000 will be divided up among local social service agencies and the rest will be made ready for the public on Wednesday.

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“This is very generous on Maple Leaf Foods’ behalf, and the city of Brandon is happy to be involved in a partnership with Maple Leaf,” says Brian Kayes, Brandon’s emergency coordinator.

Brandon COVID-19 cluster climbs
Brandon COVID-19 cluster climbs

“Maple Leaf did all the hard work in terms of logistics and setting this up, so there’s lots of things that they did behind the scenes that I’m probably not aware of.”

Part of the donation is being provided to some of the downtown centres so vulnerable populations can access masks should they want to, Kayes said, while the rest are being made available to whoever wants on Wednesday.

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They’re going to be distributed at two locations between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the first is the north parking lot of the Riverbank Discovery Centre at 545 Conservation Drive. The other is at the Keystone Centre, at 1175 18th Street, which is a drive-through station.

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“The distribution will help people have an adequate supply of masks for a significant period of time,” Kayes says, adding people still need to keep in mind fundamental health precautions, such as frequently washing hands, social distancing and not touching one’s face.

In a press release, the company said, “as the city’s largest employer, Maple Leaf Foods is deeply committed to helping the community stay safe and is pleased to work with the City of Brandon on this effort.”

As of Tuesday, the pork processing plant had also seen 56 of its employees contract COVID-19, Riley said, nearly half of the 101 cases in the entire Prairie Mountain Health Region.

COVID-19 uptick in Brandon prompts opening of second testing site
COVID-19 uptick in Brandon prompts opening of second testing site

However, health officials have noted there hasn’t been any transmission between people at the facility.

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“We’re really gratified that public health has affirmed that our workplace is very, very safe and so we’re doing everything we can to keep it that way,” Riley says, adding workers are screened every morning before entering the building, spacers have been added between work stations, and the company has brought in trailers to decrease density during breaks.

Read more: Manitoba reports 17 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, 10 cases now identified at Brandon pork plant

“It’s remarkable how different the inside of the plant looks since the pandemic started.”

Maple Leaf says more distribution days will be scheduled “as needed.”

3 more employees at Brandon Maple Leaf hog plant test positive for COVID-19
3 more employees at Brandon Maple Leaf hog plant test positive for COVID-19

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.