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Biden will make 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free

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Biden will make 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free

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Workers produce N95 respirators at Protective Health Gear (PHG) in Paterson, New Jersey, U.S., January 14, 2022.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

President Joe Biden will make 400 million highly protective N95 masks available to Americans free of charge at pharmacies and community health centers across the United States, a White House official has said.

The masks will begin to be available at the end of next week and the program will be fully operational in early February, according to the official. The White House has declared the free face masks the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in updated guidance released last week, said N95 respirators are more effective at preventing transmission of the virus than cloth and surgical masks. However, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said wearing any mask is better than no mask.

The CDC said N95 masks must form a seal on the face to work properly, warning that gaps can leave respiratory droplets that carry virus particles in and out of the mask. The CDC has provided an information sheet to show how to wear N95s.

The CDC recommends that anyone age 2 or older wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status in areas with significant or high levels of viral transmission. Currently, virtually every county in the United States has transmission of the virus, according to the agency.

Federal law requires people to wear masks on planes, buses, trains and other public transportation.

Democrats in Congress pushed the Biden administration to provide free N95 masks to Americans as the highly contagious omicron Covid variant swept the country, causing unprecedented levels of infection. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., last week reintroduced legislation providing for the delivery of three N95 masks to each person in the United States. The legislation has 50 co-sponsors in the House and Senate.

“Congress must mandate the mass production and distribution of N95 masks, one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the Covid virus,” Sanders said in a statement.

Australian researchers have found that cloth masks are less than 50% effective at filtering out virus particles, while N95 and surgical masks are around 99% effective. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Pathogens in September 2020.

The Biden administration is also distributing free at-home Covid tests to American households. Each household can order four Covid tests at www.covidtests.gov.

Biden will make 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free

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