Free, high-quality face masks will soon be available nationwide as part of a new initiative from the White House, but you might not have to wait for this giveaway to begin: Several states are handing out tens of millions of free face masks ahead of Joe Biden’s federal program.
The White House recently announced plans to distribute 400 million N95 masks to thousands of pharmacies and community health centers in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Masks from federal inventory could be available as early as the week of January 24, with the program rolling out fully in February. But if you need high-quality free masks before then, you might already have a few options.
Where to get free N95 and KN95 masks
Here’s a look at several states that are distributing masks through their own local stockpiles — separate from the new federal program.
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) announcement this week that it sent more than 20 million additional masks to county school boards to expand free access for educators, students and school staff across the state.
Cal OES says it has already sent more than one billion units of PPE to schools, communities and medical centers across the state. And more are available.
“Even with this latest distribution,” says Cal OES, “California still maintains a strong supply of hundreds of millions of pieces of PPE and other critical supplies that remain available for rapid deployment to communities in need.”
Colorado officials said KN95 masks are available for free statewide starting Jan. 19.
The masks are currently available at dozens of libraries and community centers across the state. The government has published a full list of online locations and limits the number of masks to five per person per month.
In late December, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont plans unveiled distributing millions of COVID-19 masks and rapid tests to residents in waves.
Six million free N95 masks are included in the initiative.
The state began distributing tests and masks on Dec. 30 to the general public through community centers and government agencies, schools and libraries. And he’s reserved a special supply of masks and test kits for K-12 schools across the state. Distribution for schools began in early January and will continue throughout the school year.
In late December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul detailed her administration’s policy plan to combat the winter surge of COVID-19. Hochul says the state will distribute 6 million free masks to businesses, schools, libraries and other community centers.
Gothamist New York Public Radio website reported on January 18 that 5 million masks have already been distributed, but that no less than 5% of the masks are of “questionable” quality. State officials are currently recalling and replacing questionable masks with KN95 masks.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told a news conference in early January that the state would begin distributing high-quality face masks free of charge from state supplies this month in an effort to combat the surge in COVID-19 cases.
As part of the program, approximately 10 million masks, including KN95 and surgical masks, will be available at local emergency management agencies, K-12 schools and health departments.
Millions of free tests are also available. Residents will be able to use a future online portal to order free at-home COVID-19 tests through a public partnership with Amazon.
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