The Biden administration will make 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free starting next week, a White House official told Citizen Free Press, the latest federal move aimed at curbing the rise of Covid-19 in the United States.
The masks, that come from the Strategic National Stockpile, will be made available to interested parties at a number of local pharmacies and community health centers, the official said, adding that the program will be “fully underway in early February.”
“This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history,” the official said.
The 400 million non-surgical N95 masks account for more than half of the 750 million stored in the US Strategic National Stockpile, a figure that has tripled in the last year as the White House tried to increase stockpiles.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently advised that well-fitting respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — such as N95 masks — offer “the highest level of protection” against covid-19.
The administration’s move comes at a time when the United States is facing an unprecedented rise in Covid-19 cases. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, an average of more than 750,000 new covid-19 infections per day were recorded in the last week.
“I know we all wish we could get rid of masks once and for all. I get it,” Biden said last week in remarks about his administration’s response to the coronavirus. “But there is one… they are a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of the highly transmissible omicron variant. So please wear the mask.”
Earlier this month, the CDC changed its mask guidelines to advise people to “wear the most protective mask you can, that fits well, and that you will wear consistently.”
“Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations. There is no place for them in the light of omicron,” Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the School of Medicine, recently told “Citizen Free Press Newsroom.” of Public Health at the George Washington University Milken Institute.
Beyond masks, the federal government has also quietly launched its website to sign up for free Covid-19 tests, allowing people to order up to four tests sent directly to their home.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Tuesday that the government website for requesting free tests was up and running as part of a “beta phase” ahead of the government website’s formal launch on Wednesday in the morning.
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