President Biden is providing 400 million N95 masks to Americans for free, along with one billion COVID-19 rapid tests.
Thanks to a scaling-up of the White House's pandemic response efforts, 400 million N95 masks will soon be available to Americans nationwide, completely free of charge.
The effort represents "the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history," a Department of Health and Human Services official said on Jan. 21.
The masks began shipping out from the Strategic National Stockpile last week and will soon arrive at thousands of pharmacies and community health centers across the country.
Some pharmacies, like Hy-Vee and Meijer in the Midwest, have already received their shipments and begun placing them in the front of their stores. Others, like CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger, expect to begin supplying masks as early as Thursday.
Americans can collect three masks per person.
The full list of pharmacy partners, which also includes Costco, Publix, Rite Aid, and Walmart, can be found here.
The masks will also go to community health centers across the country, beginning with a first wave of 100-200 sites, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.
"These health centers should receive and start distributing masks before the end of January 2022," HRSA told CNN.
The program will expand to more centers in the following weeks.
The full list of community health partners can be found here.
Experts say more protective masks are a critical tool to fight the omicron variant of the coronavirus. While cases and deaths have likely peaked, America is still recording about 652,000 new cases a day as of Wednesday.
Acknowledging omicron's high transmissibility, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines about masks on Jan. 14, to clarify the N95 mask's higher level of protection.
"Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection," the guidelines read.
As omicron's onslaught clogged up hospital rooms, President Joe Biden pledged to redouble his administration's COVID-19 response.
"COVID-19 is not going to give up and accept things," Biden said at a press conference last week marking his first year in office. "It's not going to go away immediately. But I'm not going to give up and accept things as they are now. Some people may call what's happening now the 'new normal.' I call it a job not yet finished."
Biden also pledged to provide one billion at-home rapid COVID-19 tests to Americans for free. They can be ordered at covidtests.gov. Every household is eligible to receive four tests.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.