Biden Will Give Away Free N95 Masks at Pharmacies and Health Centers

(Washington D.C.) — The Biden Administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the Omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

The White House announced Wednesday that the masks will come from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. They will be available to pick up from pharmacies across the nation and at community health centres. According to the White House, they will ship this week with distribution beginning late next week.
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It will mark the biggest distribution of masks free to the public by the federal government since the COVID-19 epidemic. In early 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s administration considered and then shelved plans to send masks to all American at their homes. President Joe Biden embraced the initiative after facing mounting criticism this month over the inaccessibility — both in supply and cost — of N95 masks as the highly transmissible Omicron variant swept across the country.

Biden, after facing criticism for a shortage of COVID-19 home test kits in winter, launched a website this week for Americans that allowed them to order 4 quick tests for no cost. First tests will be shipping later this month.

The White House said the masks will be made available at pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance regarding face coverings. It now clearly states that N95 and KN95 properly fitting masks provide maximum protection against COVID-19. Still, it didn’t formally recommend N95s over cloth masks.

The best mask “is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week.

The details of the program were not available immediately. They include the type of masks that will be supplied, whether they are kid-sized, and whether or not the masks can be reworn.

The White House said that “to ensure broad access for all Americans, there will be three masks available per person.”

Although N95/KN95 masks now have greater access than ever during the pandemic they’re often more costly that less-protective cloth masks and surgical masks.


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