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What happened to 91,000 KN95 masks donated to Alberta teachers?

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A local Edmonton company is wondering what happened to its donation of masks to the Alberta school system. Med PPE Canada made a substantial donation and hopes the KN95s made it into the hands of teachers. Kim Smith reports – Jan 10, 2022

It’s been a year since an Edmonton company donated 91,000 KN95 masks to the Alberta school system.

“We have kids at school, so we wanted to get them in the hands of teachers. At that time there was a lack of supply of proper masks,” Terry Booth, CEO of Med PPE Canada said on Monday morning.

Now Med PPE Canada wants to know if they were given to teachers.

“We gave them the right number so that each teacher could have at least one, and school bus drivers and admin,” Booth said.

“If they are sitting in a warehouse somewhere that’s too bad. Let’s just move them.”

Booth acknowledges that it’s not easy to distribute that many masks, as they come in packages of ten.

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“You have to be careful when you open that package and how you distribute them, who’s going to be at the receiving end, what documentation is there. It’s not an easy process, but by now you’d think they’d be fully distributed,” Booth said.

READ MORE: Confused about masking up against Omicron? Here’s a guide

The Alberta government confirmed on Sunday that it received the donation of 91,000 KN95 masks.

In a statement, the acting press secretary for the Ministry of Education said the masks were “sent to school authorities in December 2020 and January 2021, with the expectation that they were distributed to individual schools.”

“Distribution to individual schools and staff was coordinated by each school authority,” the press secretary said via email.

Edmonton Catholic Schools said it received 516 packages of 10 of the KN95 masks.

A spokesperson said via email on Monday afternoon that the packs were made available to schools upon request and that all the masks were distributed by October 2021.

A spokesperson with Edmonton Public Schools said they weren’t able to provide information to Global News on Monday, but will continue to look into it on Tuesday.

On Tuesday night, the EPSB sent Global News an email that said the school vision received 11,680 single-use KN95 masks as part of the donation last year.

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“This shipment was added to the more than $4 million of supplies that the division purchased and distributed to schools to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our schools,” the email reads. “Supplies provided to schools included hand sanitizer, 5,060 small reusable masks, 29,460 large reusable masks, 72,250 single-use disposable masks and the 11,680 KN95 masks.

“All supplies were distributed to schools in the division to help support our continued commitment to safety.”

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The Calgary Board of Education originally told Global News it has not received and is not expecting to receive any donations of KN95 masks.

On Tuesday, a statement from the CBE confirmed “upon further investigation” it had received 13,460 KN95 masks as part of a provincial PPE shipment in early February 2021.

“These were distributed throughout our system. We apologize for the confusion,” the statement read.

The Calgary Catholic School District said it received 6,640 KN95 masks from Med PPE in January 2021 as part of a large PPE shipment from the Alberta government.

“These masks were delivered to every CCSD school for specific use when a higher degree of protection was requested by staff,” read a statement from the school district.

As the Omicron variant circulates, N95 and KN95 masks have become difficult to find in the Edmonton area.

READ MORE: N95 masks, rapid tests, still hard to come by in Edmonton

Friday evening, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw tweeted that she has received questions about mask use and whether she recommends universal use of N95 masks in public settings.

She wrote there is “no conclusive evidence that N95 masks provide sufficient additional benefit in these settings.”

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“Using N95 masks is an option, but a well-fitting medical mask provides significant benefit,” Hinshaw said, repeating comments made earlier in the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cloth masks provide some benefit but must be well-fitting and multi-layered, with at least one layer providing good filtration.”

Hinshaw said masks are one layer of protection against COVID-19. Others include staying distanced, avoiding crowded spaces, maximizing ventilation and reducing time spent with people outside one’s household.

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