Free N95 masks will soon be available in the U.S.

This nonprofit sells certified N95 masks for about $1 apiece
Posted at 7:24 PM, Jan 19, 2022

The Biden administration will begin distributing 400 million N95 masks to Americans next week. It’s the federal government’s largest distribution of free masks since the pandemic began.

The CDC said N95 and KN95 can offer the most protection against COVID-19, but the masks can be costly and hard to find.

Jason Dorsey, who owns Roselawn Pharmacy, said he’s been unable to purchase N95 masks from his supplier in over a year.

“We've had better success getting tests in lately than we have with getting at N95 masks,” he said.

The masks will be sent to pharmacies and community health centers and could begin arriving next week and they'll be free.

“N95 masks, if you can get them, are fairly expensive,” Dorsey said. “That's a rather large cost for people when they're trying to afford their medications on top of that.”

Studies show mask quality makes a difference. Research conducted by ACGIH before the omicron surge found that it took 27 minutes for COVID-19 to pass between two people both wearing cloth masks. When both individuals wore surgical masks, it took about 60 minutes for the virus to spread. When both people wore N95 masks, it took about 25 hours.

“Any mask is generally better than no mask. A hospital type mask is better than a cloth mask. A well fitting mask is the best thing that you can look for,” said Dr. Steve Davis, president and CEO of Cincinnati Children’s.

County health officials warned N95 masks should be tested to ensure they fit correctly.

“The Centers for Disease Control is really recommending people wear the best mask available to you that you're willing to wear as often as possible,” said Hamilton County Health Commissioner Greg Kesterman. “If you're uncomfortable in an N95, that's probably not the right mask.”

County officials did not know when the first shipments from the federal government would arrive. The White House said individuals will be able to receive three masks each.

The CDC estimates about 60% of KN95 masks on the market currently in the U.S. are counterfeit. Experts urge you to purchase high quality masks only from sellers you trust.