INDIANAPOLIS — As COVID-19 at-home tests start popping up in mailboxes, the federal government is also shipping out millions of free N95 masks to stores across the country.
The Biden administration said it is the largest deployment of personal protection equipment in U.S. history.
The 400 million non-surgical N95 masks are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile and are being sent to health centers and pharmacies across the country. Some are expecting shipments this week.
Every American can receive up to three masks.
The Biden administration hopes to have the program up to full speed by early February.
On Monday, a spokesperson with Meijer said it has received an estimated three million masks, which have been made available for no charge to any customer who needs them. They said many Indianapolis stores have already started distribution.
“The N95 masks will be in boxes set on a table near the Meijer greeter stand of the grocery entrance. The greeter, who will be wearing gloves, will place the N95 masks in piles of three for the customers to take,” the statement read.
Kroger pharmacies are also preparing. A spokesperson confirmed they will have up to three free N95 masks for every customer. They expect to receive the first shipments on or around Thursday.
Walgreens is expecting its stores to begin offering masks on Friday, “and will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks following. Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability.”
A spokesperson with CVS said the rollout is still in the early stages but expects to offer the free masks in the coming weeks.
“Our work to distribute high-quality masks as part of this program is an extension of our commitment to providing equitable access to the tools necessary to combat COVID-19, including testing, vaccines, and authorized therapies,” the statement read.
The new rollout comes after the CDC released new mask guidance last week saying N95 and KN95 masks offer better protection than cloth masks against the new variant.
However, health experts say the best mask is still the one that fits well and can be worn for long periods of time.
The free N95 masks are only being shipped to pharmacies and health centers that partnered with the government for the COVID-19 vaccine campaign.
The list of participating central Indiana businesses includes CVS, Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens and Walmart, all of whom had previously been approved to take part in the government's retail pharmacy program.
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