Free N95 masks are arriving at pharmacies and grocery stores

FILE - Linsey Jones, a medical assistant working at a drive-up COVID-19 testing clinic, wears an N95 mask, Jan. 4, 2022, in Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle. 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. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Nearly a week after the Biden administration announced it will deploy 400 million free N95 masks to the public, the high-quality face coverings are starting to arrive at pharmacies and grocery stores, according to NPR.

“Every person is allowed up to 3 free masks pending availability,” the Department of Health and Human Services states.

Kroger stores with pharmacies will also be doling out the masks throughout the chain’s Midwest and Southwest locations. Spokeswoman Kristal Howard said the first allotment of masks is expected to arrive on Thursday. 

Walgreens is also participating in the distribution program, and on Tuesday, spokesman Scott Goldberg told NPR the masks will be made available for free while supplies last.

Similarly, CVS Pharmacy locations will also be offering free N95 masks in the coming weeks, spokesman Matt Blanchette told NPR.

The White House launched its latest effort to combat COVID-19 following new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC now says cloth masks are no longer as effective in preventing the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus and that people should wear an N95 or KN95 mask.

The coveted nonsurgical N95 masks are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of them on hand. The program, which is also distributing the free masks to community health centers around the country, is ramping up in coming days and should be up and fully operational by early February.


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