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

WATCH ABOVE: Demand for high-quality masks and rapid antigen tests has surged in Alberta amid the fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Retail stores and pharmacies in Edmonton are getting many inquiries, but the answer is often the same. Dan Grummett has more.

Romaine Fleck didn’t expect to walk out with a new mask. But a trip to a local medical supply store proved worthwhile for the EMS dispatcher, who said a cloth or medical mask will no longer cut it at work.

“You’ve got 15 people at any given moment, talking, running around, (or) you have to leave your desk. It’s impossible (to physically distance),” said Fleck.

She picked up a pair of FFP2 masks, the European equivalent to the N95, which Healthcare Solutions also sells. The store told Global News there has been big demand for both lately.

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“We were actually out of stock all last week up until (Wednesday) morning,” said Angel Yu, VP of Sales and Marketing at Healthcare Solutions. “So today it looks very full but I would say within the week, it’ll be all gone.”

Several Edmonton-area box stores we called were sold out of N95 masks, including Home Depot and Costco.

An employee of a south Edmonton Costco said all locations in the area had no stock of N95 masks and none were expected to arrive in the near future. A shipment of KN95s, the Chinese equivalent to N95, was expected next week.

On Tuesday, Alberta’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there was little evidence to show wearing N95 masks had any “significant” benefit in a community setting versus wearing a well-fitted, high quality medical mask.

Last month, a panel of Ontario doctors said single-layer cloth masks would be ineffective against the Omicron variant.

Rapid Test Woes

Rapid tests also remain a hot commodity in the Edmonton-area.

On Wednesday, the federal government announced 140 million tests would be sent to provinces and territories for the month of January.

The Alberta government said nearly 15 million tests (or 3 million kits) will be available throughout January.

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“We have procured about 10 million additional rapid tests. The first million of these additional tests arrived in the province last week, and 3 million are scheduled to arrive every week through to mid-January,” said Alberta Health’s Lisa Glover in a statement to Global News.

Pharmacies contacted by Global News said stock of rapid antigen tests had not been resupplied since the initial shipment distributed starting Dec. 17 and said there has been no way to order more.

“The usual way to order a shipment of those is through our two large vendors here in Alberta and there’s no even an option to order those,” said Sara Kenawy, pharmacist at Balsam Pharmacy in south central Edmonton.

Kenaway said she receives an average of 20 calls per day from people trying to find rapid test kits.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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