Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. The Alberta government says it will make wearing masks mandatory for most students and staff when schools reopen in September.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

New safety measures for schools in Alberta now mandate masks

The Alberta government is now mandating masks for students in Grades four to 12 and all school staff when school starts in September as part of a number of new school safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19.

According to an announcement from the provincial government on Tuesday, masks are going to be mandatory for all teachers and staff in all settings where physically distancing cannot be maintained, and students will be required to wear them in shared spaces such as hallways and buses. People who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other needs will be exempted. 

Masks are optional for students in kindergarten to Grade 3 due to issues with proper fit and compliance. 

“The safety of our staff and students continues to be my number 1 priority,” Adriana LaGrange, Alberta’s minister of education said in a press release. “These new safety measures will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools, and we will continue to work with our school authorities to ensure they are equipped for a successful start to the school year.”

The Alberta government said that they will provide two reusable masks for every student, teacher, and staff in all public, separate, Francophone, charter and independent schools. In total, more than 1.6 million masks will be given to 740,000 students and 90,000 staff.

School staff will also be given a reusable face shield for use in schools, but face shields must be worn with a mask.

About 466,000 litres of hand sanitizer will be distributed to all school districts, and each school will receive two contactless thermometers to help manage student and staff health.

“After reviewing the emerging evidence, it is clear that masks can play an important role in limiting the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health for Alberta, said. “I am not making this updated recommendation lightly, but acting on the best current evidence available.”

Schools in Alberta have been closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Back In July, the Alberta government announced that students and staff will return to school this fall with near normal daily operations with health measures such as physical distancing, self screening, and cohorting classes.

With files from CBC News

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