The Biden administration has introduced that it’s going to distribute a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of free, high-quality masks all through the nation — one thing the general public has lengthy requested, significantly amid a wave of the extremely transmissible COVID-19 variant omicron.

President Joe Biden revealed on Wednesday that the White Home will distribute 400 million non-surgical N95 masks from the Strategic Nationwide Stockpile free of charge. The stockpile at the moment has greater than 750 million N95 masks, triple what was there in January 2021 after the administration used the Protection Manufacturing Act to ramp up masks manufacturing.

Based on the White Home, the masks distribution program would be the largest deployment of non-public protecting tools within the nation’s historical past.

“To make sure accessing these masks is straightforward and handy, the Administration is leveraging the federal retail pharmacy program and the federal neighborhood well being middle program, in order that free masks can be found at most of the identical handy and trusted places People go to get vaccinated and boosted,” a White Home official stated. “N95 masks will probably be out there for the general public to select up at tens of hundreds of native pharmacies, in addition to at hundreds of neighborhood well being facilities throughout the nation.”

President Joe Biden holds up a KN95 mask as he delivers an update on his administration's whole-of-government COVID-19 surge response at the White House on Jan. 13, 2022. The White House announced plans to distribute a different type of mask, non-surgical N95 masks, from the Strategic National Stockpile.
President Joe Biden holds up a KN95 masks as he delivers an replace on his administration’s whole-of-government COVID-19 surge response on the White Home on Jan. 13, 2022. The White Home introduced plans to distribute a distinct kind of masks, non-surgical N95 masks, from the Strategic Nationwide Stockpile.

Jim Watson/AFP by way of Getty Photographs

Daybreak O’Connell, the Well being and Human Companies assistant secretary for preparedness and response, testified before senators throughout a listening to final week on the pandemic response that the N95s within the Strategic Nationwide Stockpile are sourced from 12 home producers.

“We’re additionally within the technique of placing out an settlement for heat base manufacturing so we’re in a position to maintain this capability that we at the moment have going, even when demand diminishes,” O’Connell stated.

The White Home stated it’ll begin to ship the masks on the finish of the week, and that these masks will begin to be out there at pharmacies and neighborhood well being facilities late subsequent week. By early February, this system is anticipated to be in full swing. Politico first reported the plan’s details on Tuesday.

The plan is a part of a higher, albeit late, effort to verify People have entry to higher-quality masks throughout a document surge in COVID-19 instances. Whereas analysis has proven those masks better protect people against the virus, well being officers aren’t altering steerage to particularly advocate in opposition to material masks, which are not very protective against the omicron variant. N95s are the simplest masks for stopping virus transmission.

The perfect masks “is the one which you’ll put on and the one you possibly can carry on all day lengthy, that you could tolerate in public indoor settings,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, said on Jan. 12.

Biden first mentioned his administration’s plan to distribute free masks per week in the past, when he additionally revealed the White Home was doubling its procurement of fast COVID-19 exams to be delivered for free to People by means of a authorities web site. That website was made out there on Tuesday.

There was growing pressure for the president and the federal authorities to do extra to help folks in acquiring at-home COVID-19 exams and high-quality masks. Public well being consultants and former Biden transition advisers additionally tried to strain the White Home to supply free masks, arguing that authentic and affordable N95s are nonetheless very tough to seek out.


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