Beginning next week, the Biden Administration will make 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans, citing their superior protection against the Omicron strain of COVID-19 compared to fabric face covers.
According to the White House, the masks will come from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the exceptionally protective masks on reserve. The masks will be available at pharmacies and community health centres across the United States. The White House announced that they will begin shipping this week, with distribution beginning late next week. The federal government has provided the most free masks to the public since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The administration of then-President Donald Trump discussed and then cancelled plans to mail masks to all Americans at their homes in early 2020. After facing rising criticism this month over the inaccessibility — both in terms of availability and cost — of N95 masks as the highly transmissible Omicron variety swept across the country, President Joe Biden endorsed the campaign.
Following similar criticism over a winter shortage of COVID-19 at-home test kits, Biden this week launched a website where Americans may buy four fast tests for free and have them delivered to their homes later this month.
The masks will be accessible through pharmacies and community health centres that have participated with the federal government’s COVID-19 immunisation campaign, according to the White House.
The Centers for disease control amended its guidance on facial coverings on Friday, stating more clearly that correctly fitted N95 and KN95 masks provide the best protection against COVID-19. Despite this, it did not advocate N95 masks over cloth masks.
Last week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated that the optimal mask “is one that you will wear and can maintain on all day, that you can tolerate in public indoor situations.”
The type of masks that will be offered, whether kid-size masks would be available, and whether the masks can be reworn were not immediately accessible.
According to the White House, “three masks will be accessible to each person to enable broad access for all Americans.”
N95 or KN95 masks are more commonly available now than they have been at any previous point during the pandemic, but they are often more expensive than less-protective surgical or fabric masks.