ILLINOIS — Free N95 masks will be distributed by several retail pharmacy chains in Illinois in coming weeks. Some stores will offer masks as soon as Friday.
The federal government is working with different retailers in each state. In Illinois, partners include CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Jewel-Osco, Costco, Meijer and Mariano's. A full list of partners can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Each store has its own schedule for when masks will be available. For instance, Walgreens expects to offer the masks starting Friday, while other retailers caution they may take longer to ship stock to stores.
"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 company told Patch.
Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person.
CVS and Walmart anticipate masks arriving in stores in early to mid-February.
"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.
The Federal Impetus
President Joe Biden and his team announced last week they would provide 400 million free N95 masks to Americans. The masks all come from the Strategic National Stockpile and will be distributed by retail pharmacies and local 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 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 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."
Patch's Alexis Tarrazi's reporting was used in this article.