Where to get free N95 masks from the federal government “We just determined that the fastest way to get masks out was through the channels that we use for vaccines — including community health centers and local pharmacies,” Zients said. Beyond the three-per-person limit, it’s unclear what rules, if any, affect how the masks are distributed. In a statement to Money, CVS says it will not be checking IDs when customers pick up free masks.
“This is the largest deployment of PPE, personal protective equipment, in U.S. history,” Zients said in a COVID-19 press briefing Jan. 26. Some Hy-Vee, Walmart and Meijer locations began handing out masks as early as Jan. 21, according to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients. CVS, Kroger and Walgreens have announced that certain locations are receiving their first shipments of masks this week and will begin distributing them shortly thereafter.
The free N95 masking initiative is separate from the free at-home COVID-19 testing program available through COVIDtests.gov. Unlike the testing program, which involves the shipping of free tests via U.S. mail, the masks must be picked up in-person. Well-fitting N95 masks offer the highest level of protection from COVID-19, according to the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On Jan. 19, the White House along with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they would make 400 million N95 masks from the National Strategic Stockpile available to the public for free. Each person is eligible for three free masks, supply permitting. The program is expected to go into full effect in early February.
In a statement shared with Money, Walgreens says its first batch of stores plans to hand out masks starting Friday, Jan. 28. Certain Kroger locations will soon follow. “We anticipate beginning to receive our allotment later this week,” says Kroger spokesperson Kristal Howard, noting that free masks will only be available at “Kroger stores with pharmacies.” CVS, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens and Walmart are already participating at certain locations — or plan to be by the end of the week.
Who’s giving away free masks right now? Here are more details about where and when you can get free high-quality masks.
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