The Biden Administration announced on January 19, 2022, that free N95 masks would be made available to all Americans, free of charge. Each person is allowed to have up to three masks. The masks are available from the Strategic National Stockpile.
It was back in March of 2021 that the Assertive Kids Foundation requested just this, with N95 masks and not surgical masks, as the most effective way to stop the spread of Covid-19. If masks are the best prevention, and the type of mask matters, then every person should be given the most effective type of mask.
Even then it was known that the type of masks matters in preventing the spread of any disease, but particularly Covid. According to the CDC’s recently updated consumer website, while any mask is better than no mask, there are masks that are more effective than others in preventing transmission. N-95 masks are regulated by the CDC, and must meet very stringent standards.
The White House announcement was made on Twitter, and there has been confirmation since then that the same strategic partner pharmacies and health centers that are already distributing the vaccines will also be given this important task as well.
The announcement reads: “Our Administration is making 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile available for free to Americans.
N95 masks will be available for the public to pick up at tens of thousands of local pharmacies and health centers.”
Our Administration is making 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile available for free to Americans.
N95 masks will be available for the public to pick up at tens of thousands of local pharmacies and health centers.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 19, 2022
Walgreens issued a statement via their website, “We are pleased to partner with the Administration to make N95 masks in varying sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last. Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person.
We expect the first stores to begin offering masks on Friday, January 28 and will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks following. Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability. More information will be posted to walgreens.com in the coming days.”
Anyone can go to one of the participating locations, found at the CDC’s Retail Pharmacy Partner listing website, to get free masks. Some of the participating pharmacies include Walgreens, CVS, Costco, Walmart, Stop & Shop’s parent company, among others. Be sure to check with the pharmacy before going to make sure they have received the masks.
This White House announcement follows closely behind an announcement by the CDC that updates their mask guidance.
Their press release of January 14, 2022, stated:
CDC has updated our consumer webpage describing the types of masks and respirators used to prevent the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Masking is a critical public health tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask. To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, CDC continues to recommend that you wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.
The updated page will lay out the protection provided by available masks and respirators, noting that some provide better protection than others. These updates to our webpage reflect the science on masking, including what we have learned in the past two years, and will provide people the information they need to improve how well their masks or respirators protect them. We will continue to share the science of masking as it becomes available.
According to the consumer webpage, mentioned above, under the sub-heading NIOSH-Approved Respirators:
NIOSH approves many types of filtering facepiece respirators. The most widely available are N95 respirators, but other types (N99, N100, P95, P99, P100, R95, R99, and R100) offer the same or better protection as an N95 respirator.
- When worn consistently and properly, they provide the highest level of protection from particles, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
- Additionally, they contain your respiratory droplets and particles so you do not expose others.They seal tightly to your face when fitted properly.
- It is important to pick a respirator that fits your face and seals well since not all fit the same.
- Respirators approved by NIOSH are evaluated against a specific US standard that includes a quality requirement.
- They filter at least 95% of particles in the air when approved by NIOSH and when you have a proper fit.
Banner Image: N95 Masks. Image Credit – CDC