KN95 masks being distributed through MLA offices in addition to liquor stores, casinos

If you haven’t had any luck getting a KN95 mask from a liquor store or other businesses, you might be able to get one from your local MLA. 

KN95 masks have multiple layers of material and use a mechanical respirator filter to block harmful particles that could carry the virus that causes COVID-19. Demand for them has risen dramatically in recent weeks as public health officials warn surgical and cloth masks may not offer enough protection against the highly infectious Omicron variant. 

Central Services Minister Reg Helwer said Thursday the masks were made available last week to all MLAs, including both opposition parties at the same time they were distributed to Manitoba liquor stores and casinos. 

He says MLAs were told that they could pick them up at the legislature and distribute them through their constituency offices or however they chose.

“We continue to look at our inventory to see how we can help Manitobans and how we can best get these masks into their hands,” Helwer said at a news conference. 

A spokesperson for the province says people can contact their local MLA’s constituency office to find out when masks are being distributed and their office hours. 

NDP spokesperson Emily Coutts says the party had sourced their own KN95 masks in light of the recent confusion over whether the province’s masks had expired, and have been distributing those in their constituencies. 

“We anticipate switching to the government supply shortly,” she said.

Giving supplies of KN95 masks to MLAs could be a good way to get them out into the public since politicians should have good connections in the community, says Michelle Driedger, who specializes in public health risk communication.

“They might actually have a decent idea on how they could distribute those masks within their constituency,” she said. 

However, leaving it up to the public to come to MLA’s offices or liquor stores to get the masks might not be the most equitable way to distribute them, since not everyone has access to a car, Coutts says. “It doesn’t seem to be reaching all of the kinds of sectors and different income groups that would need to be targeted with this kind of initiative.”

Driedger suggested the province should look into distributing them at testing sites or through community organizations.

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