Free N95 COVID masks are coming your way. They are not here – yet. But major grocery and pharmacy chains in Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace should have the masks in soon.
The federal government last week announced the nationwide distribution of 400 million N95 masks – for free. The feds have tapped the Strategic National Stockpile to provide the N95, which is the most effective mask available to the public. It is billed as the largest federal deployment ever.
“Every person is allowed up to three free masks pending availability,” said a federal Department of Health and Human Services statement.
We’ve reached out to Bartell, QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Walgreens, Rite Aid, CVS, and Costco to find out their plans to distribute masks. We will update this page as companies provide more details.
– No local response yet. Learn more here.
Costco says it is a federal national pharmacy partner and should have the masks. Website: www.costco.com
A CVS representative has told national news media it will “begin distributing free N95 masks in the coming weeks as supply from the federal government comes in.” Website:www.cvs.com
Fred Meyer (Kroger) says it is a federal national pharmacy partner and should have the masks. More at www.fredmeyer.com/health/pharmacy
A local QFC Pharmacy confirmed that “eligible locations” will receive a one-time shipment of N95 masks “as early as tomorrow (Thursday).” Company website here.
Rite Aid provided this statement: “We anticipate the free N95 masks will be available in some stores beginning later this week with all stores receiving them by early February. Customers will be able to pick up the masks, with a limit of 3 masks per person, at an in-store display or the pharmacy counter while supplies last.”
Safeway says that as a federal national pharmacy partner, it should have the masks. Company website: www.safeway.com
“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,” Walgreens said in a statement. Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability. Website: www.walgreens.com
Local community health centers are supposed to receive supplies of the free N95 masks by the end of the month or in early February.
The free masks may not be appropriate for children. A CDC statement said: “Although respirators may be available in smaller sizes, they are typically designed to be used by adults in workplaces, and therefore have not been tested for broad use in children.” Some school districts are using KN94 and KN95 masks for older children. Check out guidelines for masks and children at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html
N95s do filter out 95% of all airborne particles. The graphic below, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show the difference in protection between N95s and surgical masks.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky continues to “recommend that any mask is better than no mask. And we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19… and that recommendation is not going to change.”
— By Bob Throndsen