Immediate action is needed to curb rising Omicron case numbers
EDMONTON - The Kenney UCP government must immediately mandate and publicly provide respirators, better-fitting N-95 or KN-95 masks, to all Albertans free of charge, to combat the rising numbers of people infected by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, says the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL).
In a letter to Premier Kenney, AFL president, Gil McGowan, reiterated the call for an upgrade from masks to respirators, one of the important actions outlined in the Joint Statement from Alberta Unions to deal with the Omicron wave released earlier this month. The UCP government must immediately mandate the use of better-fitting N-95 or KN-95 masks in all indoor environments (not just a narrow range of health care settings), as opposed to cloth masks or disposable surgical masks.
“The evidence that respirators reduce transmission much more effectively than cloth or surgical masks is as overwhelming as the evidence for aerosol transmission of COVID-19. Experts have concluded that with this kind of aggressive airborne virus, surgical masks and cloth masks just don’t cut it,” says Gil McGowan, AFL president, “As case counts rapidly rise, the UCP government needs to immediately bulk purchase these higher quality masks from Canadian manufacturers and make them available to workers and the public free of charge.”
“Proper-fitting quality masks would increase the safety of schools, businesses and other settings where COVID-19 outbreaks are likely to persist and would reduce the chances of students and staff transmitting the Omicron variant while wearing a face covering of low quality,” continues McGowan.
“We know that workers, especially in our healthcare, education and essential services sectors, are increasingly at risk and experiencing burnout as this most recent wave takes its toll. If our institutions and economy are to survive intact, we need our leaders to take every possible action to reduce the spread of Omicron to ease the impact on these systems and to protect the workers that Albertans rely on.
At a time when so many individuals and families are struggling, the least our government can do is provide the personal protective equipment they need and mandate it for all indoor settings. Many Albertans are having difficulty finding and affording high-quality masks, but do not feel safe working, shopping or attending school and appointments without them. It is unreasonable for Albertans who work on the front lines to have to make do with cloth or surgical masks while every member of Jason Kenney's Cabinet has unlimited access to N95 masks paid for by the tax dollars of Albertans.”
Director of Communications, AFL