Alberta Education and the provincial operations centre are “confident” masks and other personal protective equipment will be distributed to school divisions before classes return, says Alberta’s education minister.
“Some have recently questioned the ability of Alberta’s government to purchase the requisite 1.6 million reusable masks in time for the start of K-12 classes this fall,” Adriana LaGrange said in a statement.
“Orders totalling 1.7 million masks have been placed – one to IFR, an Alberta-based company, and the other to Old Navy. The total value of the mask contracts is $4.2 million.”
LaGrange said when the school re-entry plan was announced on June 10 and a decision on how students would return to school was announced on July 21, it was indicated that the decision on masks in schools was still pending, as chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw was still considering emerging scientific evidence from other jurisdictions.
“Despite this pending decision, Alberta Education, in conjunction with the provincial operations centre, began preparing for the contingency should Dr. Hinshaw decide to recommend masking in schools,” said LaGrange.
“Given the expediency required, the (provincial operations centre) has directly approached experienced, established vendors to fulfil PPE needs for school reopenings. Government of Alberta contracting policies allow for this expedited process in urgent situations, as a standard request for proposal tendering process would not allow the government to fulfil our schools’ needs in the timely manner required.”
Alberta has excelled at the urgent need to purchase personal protective equipment, LaGrange said.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial operations centre has successfully procured more than six million masks, and the pandemic response planning team has also procured more than six million masks.
“This does not include the 185 million clinical masks purchased directly by Alberta Health Services. Forty million masks were also distributed directly to Albertans.”