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Here’s how to get free N95 masks at pharmacies or community health centers – CBS Philly

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Here’s how to get free N95 masks at pharmacies or community health centers – CBS Philly

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(CNN) – The rollout of free N95 masks to the public began this week across the United States, with some pharmacies already distributing the masks and others expecting to do so in the coming days.

The program is part of the Biden administration’s effort to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the national strategic stockpile through pharmacies and community health centers. The program should be fully operational in early February. The masks arrive at their destination with leaflets and accompanying panels from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for the masks.

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Here’s what you need to know to get a free N95 mask through this program:

Where can I find free N95 masks?

The masks will be available at a number of local pharmacies and community health centers, a White House official told CNN.

Participating pharmacies include Hy-Vee, Meijer, CVS, Walgreens and Kroger.

Some of the first masks arrived Friday in the Midwest, including Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Nebraska and in the Meijer stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. and Wisconsin.

The masks should also start arriving at Southeastern Grocers stores as soon as Friday, and they will be available at Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket and Winn-Dixie in-store pharmacies.

CVS pharmacies should also receive and begin distributing free N95 masks in the coming weeks as supplies from the federal government arrive, spokesman Matt Blanchette told CNN on Monday.

Walgreens expects free N95 masks to be available at select locations starting Friday, according to a company spokesperson.

“We are excited to partner with the administration to make N95 masks in various sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last,” a Walgreens spokesperson wrote in an email Monday. CNN.

“Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person,” the email said. “We expect the first stores to begin offering masks on Friday January 28 and will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks thereafter. Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability. »

Kroger stores with pharmacies also plan to distribute free N95 masks, according to a company statement Monday.

“Wearing a mask and getting vaccinated continue to be the primary tools of defense in our nation’s fight against COVID-19. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the free non-surgical N95 masks and schedule an appointment today to get vaccinated or boosted,” Kroger Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Watkins said in the statement.

Community health centers should also distribute masks, but on a smaller scale.

The first 100 centers participating in the rollout of the federal government’s free N95 mask program will begin 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 oversees the Community Health Centers program for the federal government and notes on its website that the HRSA Health Center’s COVID-19 N95 mask program will begin gradually, providing N95 masks to about 100 to 200 health centers in the initial phase. .

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“These health centers should receive and start distributing masks before the end of January 2022,” according to the agency.

Farber added that the Health Resources and Services Administration expects masks to be made available to all health centers by mid-February.

How many masks can I get?

The HHS flyer distributed with the free masks says up to three masks are “available to anyone in the United States”

Pharmacies plan to monitor how many masks people take at a time to make sure they don’t take more.

There have been no issues with people trying to take more than the allotted number of N95 masks from Hy-Vee locations, a company spokesperson told CNN on Monday.

“Each Hy-Vee store has designated employees to personally distribute up to three masks per person; we haven’t had a problem with people trying to take more than the limit of three provided by HHS,” Hy-Vee spokeswoman Christina Gayman wrote in an email. “Additional N95 masks are also on sale in our pharmacies if people want/need more.”

If the masks cost me nothing, who paid for them?

The masks come from the US Strategic National Stockpile, maintained by HHS, which means the federal government paid for them.

“This effort represents the largest deployment of the Strategic National Stockpile to date and is also the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history,” wrote Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response to HHS, in a Friday blog post.

The 400 million N95 masks represent more than half of the 750 million stored in the strategic national stockpile, a figure that has tripled over the past year as the White House sought to increase its reserves.

Does this mean that I should no longer wear other types of masks?

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasize that “any mask is better than no mask”.

The CDC recommends that Americans wear “the most protective mask possible that fits well and that you will wear consistently,” and it notes that different types of masks can provide different levels of protection.

“Loosely woven fabric products offer the least protection, thinly woven, layered products offer more protection, tight-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and tight-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including including N95s) offer the highest level of protection,” according to the CDC.

“Some masks and respirators provide higher levels of protection than others, and some may be more difficult to tolerate or wear consistently than others,” the CDC guidelines state. “It is very important to wear a properly fitted mask or respirator that is comfortable for you and provides good protection.”

By having a better fit and having certain materials – such as polypropylene fibers – act as both mechanical and electrostatic barriers, N95 masks help better prevent tiny particles from entering the nose or mouth. They must fit the face to be effective.

“The CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask. And we encourage all Americans to wear a properly fitted mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of Covid-19,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing this month. “And that recommendation is not going to change.”

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Here’s how to get free N95 masks at pharmacies or community health centers – CBS Philly

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