N95 masks available for free at local pharmacies

On Wednesday, the White House tweeted that the Biden administration was making N95 masks from the National Strategic Stockpile available at local pharmacies and participating community health centers.

The administration hopes to distribute 400 million N95 masks. These masks will be free and available to the public at federal retail pharmacy program partner establishments and community health centers. Some of the participating pharmacies include Albertsons Companies, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies.

Albertsons responded to our request for comment saying in part: “…In addition to providing vaccines and boosters at our pharmacies, we are participating in the federal government’s initiative to distribute non-surgical N95 masks nationwide free of charge. in the coming weeks. We are currently working to finalize details regarding inventory and distribution,” said Melissa Hill Albertsons, Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations.

CVS responded to our request for comment saying in part, “Through our continued participation in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we will be offering access to free N95 masks at CVS pharmacies in the coming weeks as as we receive supplies from the federal government. “said Monica Prinzing, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for CVS Health (Western Region).

Walgreens Pharmacy is the only pharmacy to provide us with a tentative date when the distribution of masks will begin and how it will work. They expect the first stores to start offering masks on Friday, January 28, and say stores with N95 masks available will have clearly marked signs.

Walgreens responded to our request for comment, saying, in part, “We are excited to partner with the administration to make N95 masks in various sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last. Customers and patients can purchase a maximum of three masks per person,” said Walgreens spokesperson Alex Brown.

Healthcare workers say making these masks available for free at local pharmacies will help, but they think it should have been done long before now.

“I think it probably should have been done two years ago, but that’s just my opinion, you know,” nurse practitioner Maggi Hume said.

The N95 mask is often hard to find and buying them in large quantities can get very expensive, but N95 and KN95 masks have proven to be the most effective in preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus. »

“The N95, I mean, literally filters out a lot more than a regular surgical mask,” Hume said.

Making masks readily available at pharmacies across the state could even help travelers stop the spread.

“You know, it’s really nice when masks are regularly available when you need them because when I travel like I do now, it’s hard for me to remember my mask,” Hume said.

Some community members don’t like the idea of ​​handing out N95 masks.

“No. They’re available to everyone. If you want a mask, you can get one,” said San Luis Obispo County resident Darren Bello.

…saying that they have been available for years.

“It’s not necessary. It’s just more stuff,” Bello said.

…and there are better uses for taxpayers’ money.

“Probably further developing our own manufacturing infrastructure so that we can make them ourselves instead of ordering billions of dollars from China,” Bello said.

Some of the participating community health centers here in San Luis Obispo include Prado and CASA.

Christy J. Olson