MASSACHUSETTS — Through mask mandates, vaccine mandates and the omicron surge, many people in Massachusetts have tried to stock up on N95 masks, which were deemed the most effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Pharmacies including Walgreens, Walmart, Wegmans, and CVS will begin offering the highly coveted masks Friday, Jan. 28, for free at some participating stores across the country.
"We are pleased to partner with the [Biden] Administration to make N95 masks in varying sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last," a spokesperson for the Illinois-based company told Patch.
Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person.
The free masks are expected to be available by Friday and will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks following, according to Walgreens.
Some stores might see a later timeline for the masks.
"We anticipate masks will be available by the second week of February at the front of more than 5,100 Walmart stores and Sam's Clubs across the country," said a spokesperson with Walmart.
"Through our continued participation in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we'll be offering access to free N95 masks at CVS Pharmacy locations in the coming weeks as we receive supply from the Federal Government," said a spokesperson with CVS.
Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed the pharmacy companies participating in the mask distribution including:
CVS Pharmacy (including inside some Target stores)
Rite Aid Corp.
Walmart (including Sam's Club)
Find a full list of free mask giveaways on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
While Costco is on the CDC's list, a spokesperson with the company would not confirm if they are participating.
"Management has no comment at this time," said the Costco spokesperson.
Last week, the White House announced that 400 million N95 masks would be made available for free to all Americans. The masks are being released from the Strategic National Stockpile. In addition to pharmacies such as Walgreens, they can be picked up at local community health centers.
The nationwide N95 mask distribution is part of a wider COVID-19 response plan that included last week's rollout of a website where Americans can sign up to receive free coronavirus rapid tests, the Associated Press reported.
The CDC updated its face-covering guidance on Jan. 14, clearly stating that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19, but it stopped short of recommending them over cloth masks.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said last week the best mask "is the one that you will wear and the one you keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings."