WASHINGTON D.C. — The Biden administration is expected to be making 400 million N95 masks available for distribution for free starting next week.
The announcement came after federal officials started emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.
The masks will come from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the masks on hand. They will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country that participate in the vaccine campaign.
This will be the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the pandemic began.
President Biden embraced the initiative after facing mounting criticism over the supply and cost inaccessibility of the N95 masks as COVID cases soared with the spread of the omicron variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on face coverings to clearly state that N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19.
It is not yet clear if child-sized masks will be available or if the masks can be reworn, but the White House said it is expecting to be able to provide three masks per person.