Some local grocery stores and retailers are offering non-surgical N95 masks free to the public, part of a nationwide effort by the Biden administration to curb the spread of COVID-19.
At Meijer on Lexington-Springmill Road in Ontario, N95 free masks were available Wednesday inside the front doors on the grocery side of the store.
Kroger Columbus Division announced that it is serving as an access point to the free non-surgical N95 masks as part of its partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“Wearing a mask and getting vaccinated continue to be the top defense tools in our nation’s fight against COVID-19," said Dr. Marc Watkins, Kroger’s chief medical officer, in a statement. " I encourage everyone to take advantage of the free non-surgical N95 masks and make an appointment today to get vaccinated or boosted.”
Customers, employees encouraged to get free masks
Starting this week, customers can visit Kroger stores with a pharmacy and pick up the complimentary masks while supplies last.
Kroger associates are also encouraged to retrieve the supplies for themselves and their families.
“Kroger is grateful for the ongoing role we’re able to play in helping help our associates and customers protect themselves and our communities against COVID-19,” said Dana Zurcher, president of Kroger Columbus, in a news release. “We have many accessible stores across the region and invite our customers to visit to pick up free non-surgical respirator masks for their household.”
Meijer also is making the free N95 masks available.
Locally, the News Journal checked at Kroger on Park Avenue West on Wednesday and that store did not yet have the free N95 masks.
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Once the Kroger stores get their supplies, up to three free non-surgical N95 masks will be available to everyone.
Every Kroger store with a pharmacy will have a branded display for the free masks, or customers can ask an associate for assistance.
CDC says N95 masks among most protective against COVID-19
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, the N95 is among the most protective masks available.
"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 CDC states on its website.
N95 masks should be discarded when they become dirty, damaged, or difficult to breathe through, according to the CDC.
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The Biden administration said it is distributing 400 million N95 masks from the National Strategic Stockpile to "tens of thousands" of local pharmacies, community centers and health facilities across the country.
The White House called the undertaking "the largest deployment of protective equipment in U.S. history." The administration also has rolled out a new website, covidtests.gov, where Americans can request up to four COVID-19 rapid tests be mailed to their households for free.
To learn more about the importance of masking, visit cdc.gov/coronavirus.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Free N95 masks are being made available at local stores