The distribution of free N95 masks to the general public began this week across the U.S., with some pharmacies already doing so and others planning to do so soon.
"Every person is allowed up to 3 free masks pending availability," the Department of Health and Human Services announced.
The initiative is part of the Biden administration's endeavor to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile through pharmacies and community health centers. The initiative is scheduled to be completely operational by early February. The masks are being delivered to their destinations along with pamphlets and signage from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for them.
Here's what you need to know about getting a free N95 mask through this program:
Where can I get my free mask?
CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Rite Aid, Publix, Walmart, and Sam's Club are just a few of the numerous U.S. retailers who have joined the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to begin providing free N95 masks.
Stop & Shop has announced that N95 masks will be distributed at all of its Rhode Island locations on a first-come, first-served basis.
A complete list of participating pharmacies can be found here.
When are the masks going to be available?
According to White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients, free masks should start appearing at most participating stores in early February.
"We've already shipped millions of these masks out," he said in the briefing. "And across the coming days, masks will begin to be available at local pharmacies and community health centers across the country."
According to CNN, Hy-Vee, a grocery chain in the Midwest and South, began issuing masks on Friday, and in-store pharmacies at Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más, and Harvey's outlets in the southeastern U.S. may begin issuing them as early as this Friday.
The majority of partnering pharmacies have not provided a specific date, but a Walmart spokesman told CNET that the masks "will be available over the next few weeks."
Unfortunately, communities that have been struck the worst will have to wait a little longer, reports NPR.
While there are no restrictions on who can purchase N95 masks from participating merchants, the supply set aside for many of the nation's poorest and most vulnerable neighborhoods won't be distributed for at least another month.
More than 25 million N95 masks will be given to more than 1,300 community health centers across the country, as well as 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens, the White House announced on Monday.
Many of the country's roughly 300 food banks would also receive N95s, according to the report.