Are you looking for a free N95 mask?
The federal government is planning to send the masks across the country soon to community health centers and pharmacies.
One hundred community health centers are set to receive free N95 masks the week of Jan. 24, according to Health Resources & Services Administration, an agency within the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.
The health agency expects this initial group will include seven centers in Florida with more than 100 sites.
Details on which centers will be receiving the initial mask shipments was not immediately available.
The agency expects that by mid-February, N95 masks will be available at all health centers and “Health Center Program look-alikes” that opt to enroll in the federal mask distribution program.
Look-alike centers are health centers that don’t receive federal award funding and rely on other funds to operate such as Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and patient fees.
Once mask shipments arrive, each center will decide how to distribute the masks.
N95s are considered the highest level of protection against COVID-19.
So, which Florida pharmacies will have the masks in stock? And how can you find a community health center near you?
Here’s what to know so far:
Will N95 masks be free for everyone? How many can I get?
The N95 masks from the federal government will be free. Three masks per person will be available, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But remember this giveaway applies only to the N95 masks the federal government is shipping from its Strategic National Stockpile as part of their strategy to combat the rapid spread of the contagious omicron variant. Retailers can still sell N95 masks — and they can be pricey.
Florida pharmacies to get free N95 masks
Most pharmacies that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 vaccines are expected to distribute the free masks. In Florida, 11 retail pharmacies are enrolled in the federal vaccine program, including CVS Health, Walgreens, Publix, Southeastern Grocers (Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más, Harveys Supermarket), Walmart (including Sam’s Club), Costco, and Kroger Co.
Its not clear yet if all 11 companies will be participating in the mask giveaways. So far, details on when and how people can get the masks are scarce because retailers are still in the process of finalizing distribution details.
What we know so far:
▪ All Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket pharmacies are expected to receive N95 mask shipments as early as Friday, Jan. 28, according to Jacksonville-based parent company Southeastern Grocers. Up to three masks will be available per person on a first-come, first-served basis, pending availability. You’ll have to visit or call your local store to see if they have the free masks in stock.
▪ Walgreens said it plans to have the masks in different sizes available at select stores across Florida in the coming weeks. CVS said it plans to have masks at select stores across Florida in the coming weeks. Both pharmacies, in individual statements, reaffirmed their commitment to help communities stay safe during the pandemic. Both said they’re still finalizing distribution plans.
Publix and Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
How to find a community health center
If you’re a patient at a community health center, it’s probably easier to ask them about their N95 mask distribution plans than to search for an alternate location. If you’re not a patient and need to find one, there are a few online tools you can use.
The Health Resources and Services Administration, also known as HRSA, has a health center online locator you can use to find a nearby federally funded center. Use your device’s GPS to find a site or search by city, ZIP Code or address. You can also search by the center’s name. The nationwide locator includes health centers and look-alikes.
Search results will include the center’s name and operator, address, phone number, how many miles away it is from you, and a link to get directions. You can also download a PDF listing the first 25 centers that appear in your search results.
If you have questions about the countrywide locator, call the HRSA Contact Center at 877-464-4772 (TTY: 877-897-9910), 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
The Florida Association of Community Health Centers also has an online locator that lets you search for a health center by address, ZIP Code, center name or by county. Search results will include the center’s name, address, phone number, hours of operation and list of offered services. The locator includes health centers and look-alikes.
Note that not every center listed in the federal and Florida specific locators may be participating in the free N95 mask distribution.
TIP: There are lots of community health centers in Florida. If you’re trying to get a N95 mask, your best bet is to call your nearest center and ask for details on when they plan to receive masks, and how you can get one.
This article will be updated.