RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Biden administration announced a new program last week making 400 million N95 masks available for free. This comes after health officials encouraged the use of N95 masks over cloth face coverings with rising cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has encouraged people to wear K95 or KN95 masks used by healthcare workers to slow the spread of the virus.
The White House announced that the masks would come from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million N-95 masks stored away.
Unlike the free at-home COVID-19 tests that people request on COVIDtests.gov and are shipped to homes through the United States Postal Service (USPS), you will have to go to your local pharmacy or community health center to pick up the free masks.
Where can you potentially find the free masks?
CVS: CVS said it would start providing free N95 masks as part of the program “as we receive supply from the Federal Government.” The pharmacy chain did not provide any details on timing.
Kroger: A spokesperson for Kroger, the parent company of Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less and more than a dozen different stores, told 8News’ parent company Nexstar its locations with pharmacies are participating in the program. The nation’s largest grocery chain anticipates its allotment will arrive later this week. Customers are encouraged to visit their nearest pharmacy store for theirs. Kroger Mid-Atlantic said anyone interested in getting a mask can find the branded display or ask an associate for help at stores with a pharmacy.
Rite Aid: Rite Aid said all of its locations will be participating in the program with some stores starting to distribute the N95s this week. All stores should have masks to hand out by early February, a spokesperson said. Customers will be able to pick up three masks per person at a display in-store or at the pharmacy counter, supply permitting.
Walgreens: The pharmacy chain said it will start handing out N95 masks in several sizes at stores starting Friday, Jan. 28, adding more participating locations in the following days and weeks. Stores where masks are available will have signage indicating they’re in stock, a Walgreens spokesperson said.
Wegmans: A Wegmans spokesperson said the company would be participating in the federal N95 program but was “awaiting further details” at publication time.
Check with your local pharmacies to make sure they have the masks in stock.