Just as free Covid-19 tests are landing in the mailboxes of people who ordered them, the first free N95 masks for the public have started to arrive at US pharmacies, with more on the way in the coming days.
Masks already are set up for distribution at some Hy-Vee and Meijer grocery stores in the Midwest, with more expected at Southeastern Grocers stores later this week.
The Biden administration announced last week that the 400 million N95 masks, which are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile, will be distributed to pharmacies and community health centers, with the program expected to be fully up and running by early February. The masks are arriving at their destinations with accompanying flyers and signage from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which paid for the masks.
The flyer, which is being distributed in both English and Spanish, notes that up to three of the free masks are "available to every person in the U.S." It directs people to cdc.gov/coronavirus and includes a QR code with instructions on how to properly put on and take off the masks.
Where masks are arriving
Some of the first masks arrived in the Midwest on Friday, including at Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Meijer stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Masks will also begin arriving at Southeastern Grocers locations as early this Friday, the official added, and will be available at Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie in-store pharmacies.
"I can confirm that we began receiving and distributing our first shipments of N95 masks from HHS on Friday, Jan. 21. At this time, many Hy-Vee pharmacy locations have received and are distributing their mask allocations. All 275 Hy-Vee pharmacies in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wisconsin will have masks by mid-week," Christina Gayman, a spokesperson for Hy-Vee, Inc., wrote in an email to CNN on Monday.
CVS pharmacies are also expected to receive and begin distributing free N95 masks in the coming weeks as supply from the federal government comes in, spokesman Matt Blanchette told CNN in an email Monday.
Walgreens expects free N95 masks will be available at some locations starting this Friday, according to a company spokesperson.
"Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person," the email noted. "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."
The first 100 community health centers participating in the rollout of the federal government's free N95 mask program will also start this week, Amy Simmons Farber, a spokesperson for the National Association of Community Health Centers wrote in an email to CNN on Monday. The Health Resources and Services Administration or HRSA oversees the Community Health Centers program for the federal government, and notes on its website that the HRSA Health Center COVID-19 N95 Mask Program will begin incrementally, providing N95 masks to approximately 100 to 200 health centers in the initial phase.
"These health centers should receive and start distributing masks before the end of January 2022," according to HRSA. Farber added that by mid-February, HRSA anticipates that masks will be made available to all health centers.
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US pharmacies are rolling out free N95 masks as free Covid-19 tests begin to arrive in the mail
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