N95 Mask Give-Aways Begin; Call Before You Go

ROYERSFORD PA – There’s good news on the COVID-19 protective front, state 146th House District Rep. Joe Ciresi reminded his e-mailed newsletter recipients Friday (Feb. 4, 2022). The federal government’s deployment of more than 400 million N95 masks, recommended by the national Centers for Disease Control, is under way.

N95 masks are higher-quality face coverings. They’re considered significantly more effective at preventing the spread of the highly-contagious omicron variant of COVID-19, Ciresi noted. “Each person is allowed up to three masks, for free, pending availability,” he added.

Face coverings are shipping to pharmacies now, federal spokespersons agree, and may have arrived at some stores. Free masks are most likely to be in supply at places that previously worked with the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, part of what the government calls its Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership.

Some stores … but so far not all, they also acknowledge.

If you’re interested in getting free masks, industry observers say their best advice is to “call before you travel” to ensure a specific location has masks to give away. That’s because N95 masks haven’t yet reached all areas or all retailers.

“Marketplace,” a business-oriented radio news program, reported Friday that supermarket chains with pharmacies that are part of the Albertsons Companies, including Acme Markets, have masks in selected stores. Others are awaiting deliveries.

Callers Sunday (Feb. 6, 2022) to CVS Pharmacies, with more than 9,900 stores, heard a recording that stated: “Government-provided N95 masks are coming soon to our store locations. These masks are not available in our stores yet. We will share more information on timing as we learn more.” A CVS spokesman interviewed by Marketplace confirmed his company’s initial mask inventory deliveries are on the way and “will continue on a rolling basis as additional supply becomes available.”

Competitor Walgreens has more than 9,000 stores and faces similar challenges. In a Jan. 28 statement on its website, it also said masks have begun arriving at “the first wave of (its) stores and will continue to roll out into additional stores in the coming days and weeks. We anticipate all participating stores will receive supply by mid-February.”

Photo by Jonathan J. Castellon via Unsplash, used under license