SANTA MONICA, CA — Some 400 million N95 masks will be available for free to all Americans beginning next week.
The masks will be released from the Strategic National Stockpile and will be available for pickup at local community health centers and pharmacies, the Associated Press reported.
Details of the plan — part of a broader administration program to blunt the spread of COVID-19 — were still emerging. The White House is expected to announce formal details about the distribution plan Wednesday. In general, the N95 masks will be available for pickup late next week at pharmacies and health centers in Santa Monica that partnered with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
People can get up to three masks, the White House said, “to ensure broad access for all Americans.”
The release still leaves the United States with a reserve of 350,000 of the highly protective N95 masks, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said offer better protection against the coronavirus's omicron variant than cloth face coverings. N95 and KN95 masks are more widely available now than they were early in the pandemic, but costlier than the less-protective surgical or cloth masks.
The CDC updated its face covering guidance Friday, 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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.