Jan. 25, 2022 -- Free N95 masks are being offered to the public at some pharmacies in the Midwest, with other chains expecting to receive their share of masks in coming days.
Meijer, a supercenter chain in the Midwest, said Monday it had received about 3 million masks from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The Washington Post reported. The Midwest supermarket chain Hy-Vee tweeted that its pharmacies now have free masks.
An unnamed Biden administration official told CNN that masks should arrive as early as Friday at grocery chains with in-store pharmacies in the Southeast, including Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket, and Winn-Dixie.
Walgreens expects to have the masks at some locations as early as Friday, a company spokesperson told CNN.
"Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person," the Walgreens spokesperson said in an email. "We expect the first stores to begin offering masks on Friday, Jan. 28, and will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks following. Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability."
CVS pharmacies should receive free masks in coming weeks, a company spokesperson said.
The Biden administration announced last week that it will offer 400 million N95 masks to Americans for free at retail pharmacies and community health centers across the country. The first shipments went out last week.
The nonsurgical N95 masks will come from the Strategic National Stockpile. The plan is a response to growing pressure from public health experts to encourage Americans to stop using cloth masks that don’t work as well against the Omicron variant.
The CDC said this month that loosely woven cloth masks offer the least protection against COVID-19, while N95 and KN95 masks offer the most.
Amy Simmons Farber, a spokesperson for the National Association of Community Health Centers, told CNN in an email that the first 100 community centers taking part in the program will start giving out masks this week.
The mask rollout comes as Americans are expected to start receiving free COVID home testing kits from the federal government.
The administration said 500 million tests are available to be delivered to homes across the country. This accounts for half of the president’s recent pledge to purchase 1 billion free at-home COVID-19 tests to distribute to the public.