Pharmacies in the U.S. are Handing Out Free N95 Masks While Long-awaited COVID-19 Tests Begin to Arrive in the Mail

Pharmacies in the U.S. are Handing Out Free N95 Masks While Long-awaited COVID-19 Tests Begin to Arrive in the Mail

The Biden administration makes 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free.

Just as free Covid-19 tests are landing in the mailboxes of people who ordered them, free N95 masks started to arrive at pharmacies around the country. The Biden administration seeks to ramp up access to high-quality masks during the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Meanwhile, the free tests started shipping out last week and are a part of the administration's effort to increase access to testing around the United States.

"Last week masks began shipping and arriving at pharmacies and grocers around (the) country. We expect that throughout the week the number of stores and N95s arriving to scale up significantly," an administration official said.

The Biden administration announced last week that the 400 million N95 masks, which are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, will be distributed to pharmacies and community health centers, with the program expected to be fully up and running by early February. The masks are arriving with accompanying flyers and signage from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which paid for the masks.

According to an article, “some of the first masks arrived in the Midwest on Friday, including at Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Meijer stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.” Masks will also begin arriving at Southeastern Grocers locations as early this Friday and will be available at “Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie in-store pharmacies.”

This rollout of free masks has been called the federal government's "largest deployment" yet. The CDC does not plan to change its guidance on mask usage as the administration gives more access to these masks. The CDC recommends Americans wear well-fitting masks, which can include multiple layers of cloth masks, N95s or K95s.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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