According to a White House official, the Biden administration will announce plans on Wednesday to make 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers around the country.
The announcement comes as President Biden intensifies the federal government’s response to a statewide outbreak of Covid-19 infections caused by the highly transmissible Omicron strain. Popular single-layer fabric masks may not be sufficient to defend against Omicron, according to several scientists and doctors, who have urged the administration to enhance access to high-filtration masks such as N95s.
The nonsurgical N95 masks will be accessible at pharmacies and community health centers by the end of next week, with the program fully operational by early February, according to a White House official. The masks will come from the Strategic National Stockpile, the country’s medical-equipment safety net.
The official stated, “This is the largest deployment of personal protection equipment in US history.” “Experts concur that masking is a crucial technique for controlling Covid-19’s spread.”
According to the official, each individual would be given three masks to ensure broad access. The masks will be distributed by the majority of pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy vaccine program, according to the official.
Mr. Biden has also attempted to improve access to Covid-19 testing, which is now in short supply across the country. On Tuesday, the administration began accepting orders for at-home quick tests through a new website that will be given to Americans for free. Another of Mr. Biden’s initiatives went into effect this month, with private insurance covering the cost of over-the-counter Covid-19 tests.
Mr. Biden has urged people to wear masks in public indoor settings, but he has not called on state and local officials to reinstate mask laws in the wake of the Omicron wave. As the variant began to take hold in the United States, the president extended a mask mandate for passengers.
People should wear “the most protective mask you can that fits properly and that you will use consistently,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid-19 is best protected by well-fitting respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, such as N95s, according to the public health department.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day average for newly reported Covid-19 cases in the United States had hit record highs of almost 800,000 each day.