Californians will soon have increased access to the highly sought-after N95 masks for free at their local health centers and pharmacies.
President Joe Biden’s administration announced that 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers across the country by the end of last week. This comes after health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed that N95s provide the highest level of protection from COVID-19.
According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the masks are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and will be shipped to 100 to 200 health centers in the initial phase, including 18 in California. These facilities will likely receive and distribute the respirators by the end of January.
The program is not expected to be fully running until February. Then, the HRSA anticipates that masks will be available to all health centers and similar facilities that wish to order them.
FRRP partner pharmacies in California include Rite Aid, Walgreens, Albertsons Companies, Kroger, Walmart and more.
The HRSA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will expand the free mask program to more health centers in the coming weeks, according to the administration.
The Bee reached out to several retail pharmacies that operate in California to ask when and if they will receive the masks from the federal government. Here’s what they said:
Rite Aid will be providing free N95 masks through its partnership with the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
According to an email statement, the retailer anticipates that the masks will be available in stores starting at the end of this week. Customers can get them at the front check-out or pharmacy counter while supplies last. The masks are limited to three per person.
Walgreens will be providing N95 masks in various sizes for free at participating locations, while supplies last, said Karen May, the senior manager of leadership communications at Walgreens. There’s a limit of three masks per person.
Some stores will begin offering the masks on Friday, Jan. 28, May said. They will continue to provide masks on a rolling basis in the following days and weeks.
Participating Walgreens locations will have a sign indicating N95 mask availability.
A CVS Health spokesperson said that pharmacy locations will be offering free N95s “in the coming weeks” as they receive supply from the federal government.
Walmart and Sam’s Club
Walmart and Sam’s Club will be distributing N95 masks. According to an email statement from the company, the masks “will be available over the next few weeks” at select stores.
Individuals can pick up three masks per person, while supplies last.
According to the statement, all Walmart and Sam’s Club locations will have N95s eventually.
How to find a community health center near you
The N95 masks will also be shipped to community health centers. If you’re a patient of one, call ahead and ask if there are any available for you.
The HRSA has a list of all health centers throughout the country that have ordered N95 masks.
Some of the 18 California health centers participating in the program include Community Medical Centers, Inc. in Stockton; Clinica De La Raza, Inc. in Oakland; and Shasta Community Health Center in Redding.
If you want to find a local community health facility near you, you can use the HRSA’s online locator.
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