US pharmacies get first shipments of free N95s

Some pharmacies in the U.S. have started receiving their first shipments of N95 masks to distribute for free to the public. 

The shipments, coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, are part of the federal government's plan to advance access to high-quality masks to combat the omicron-driven COVID-19 surge. Earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal reported the White House was planning to send 400 million masks to pharmacies and community health centers, with the national program set to be in full gear by early February. 

Masks were set up for distribution as of Jan. 24 at select Hy-Vee and Meijer grocery stores in the Midwest, with shipments set to arrive at grocers in the southeastern region of the country by Jan. 28, CNN reported. There is a limit of three masks per person to ensure broad access, federal officials said. 

Meijer confirmed to The Washington Post that it had received about 3 million N95 masks. Walgreens also expects to begin offering free masks at some of its locations by Jan. 28, a spokesperson told the Post. 

"Last week masks began shipping and arriving at pharmacies and grocers around [the] country. We expect that throughout the week the number of stores and N95s arriving to scale up significantly," an administration official told CNN.  

The CDC on Jan. 14 updated its consumer page on mask guidance to clarify that N95 masks offer the highest level of protection. 


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