The Biden administration aims to make 400 million N95 masks available to all Americans for free at pharmacies and community health centers next week, a White House official said per The Wall Street Journal. The masks will be coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, the national repository of critical medical supplies. The program will be fully up and running by early February.
“This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history,” the official said. “Experts agree that masking is an important tool to control the spread of COVID-19.”
Three masks will be available per person, according to the official, and most of the pharmacies that are part of the federal pharmacy vaccine program will distribute the masks.
This move comes after scientists and doctors voiced their concerns over the effectiveness of single-layer cloth masks to protect against the spread of the Omicron variant. The CDC updated its mask guidance on Jan. 14, saying that properly fitting N95 masks offer the “highest level of protection.”
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Last week, Biden noted that high-quality masks weren’t easy to find. “I know that for some Americans, a mask is not always affordable or convenient to get,” he said. “I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it. But … they’re a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of a highly transmittable Omicron variant.”
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