The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents 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. The masks will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. They will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week, the White House said.
The White House said that “to ensure broad access for all Americans, there will be three masks available per person.”
In Florida, there are 11 companies that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which will be the mechanism used to send out the N95 masks:
- Costco Wholesale Corp.
- CPESN USA LLC
- CVS Pharmacy Inc. (including Long’s)
- Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO), Elevate Provider Network
- Health Mart Pharmacies
- LeaderNET and The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Cardinal Health’s PSAOs
- Publix Super Markets Inc.
- Southeastern Grocers (Winn-Dixie, Harveys, Fresco Y Mas)
- The Kroger Co. (including Kroger, Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Ralphs, King Soopers, Smiths, City Market, Dillons, Mariano’s, Pick-n-Save, Copps, Metro Market, QFC)
- Walgreens (including Duane Reade)
- Walmart Inc. (including Sam’s Club)
On Wednesday, News4JAX reached out to several of those companies to learn more about the rollout and how it will work.
CVS confirmed it will offer the free N95 masks at its locations in the coming weeks.
Here is the entire statement from CVS:
Walgreens confirmed the same at select locations and is still finalizing plans for the rollout. And while a lot of logistical details are still being worked out, the statement from Walgreens indicated that the masks will be available in various sizes.
Here’s the full statement from Walgreens’ parent company:
News4JAX also reached out to Publix but has not received a response. '
As for how long the masks will last, Linsey Marr, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, said she wears hers for a week.
”The most important thing to do is make sure it seals well around your face. That means bending the nose bridge to fit your nose,” Marr said.
As for how to take care of the mask, try to handle it by the edges or straps. If it becomes visibly dirty, damp, creased or damaged — even from makeup — replace it.
Setting it in the sunlight for several hours may help particles die off but never put in the microwave.
These masks should never be washed either. Water makes them ineffective.