As part of a nationwide initiative to combat the omicron variant, the Biden administration will make 400 million N95 masks available for free to U.S. residents starting next week.
The face coverings will be allocated from the government's Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand.
Masks will be distributed at health centers and pharmacies enrolled in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, a nationwide program that relies on such entities to help expand COVID-19 vaccine access.
Here's a list of where you'll be able to find a free N95 mask in Illinois, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Albertsons Companies (including Osco, Jewel-Osco and other subsidiaries)
- CPESN USA
- Good Neighbor Pharmacy and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation’s pharmacy services administrative organization (PSAO), Elevate Provider Network
- Health Mart Pharmacies
- LeaderNET and The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, Cardinal Health’s PSAOs
- The Kroger Co. (including Kroger, Mariano’s, Pick-n-Save and other brands under the company)
- Piggy Wiggly
- Walmart (including Sam’s Club)
Several stores will begin providing masks next week, according to White House officials, but the program isn't expected to be fully operational until early February. Officials recommend calling locations to ensure enough masks are in stock.
Each resident will be limited to three masks per person to ensure broad access to the program, a White House official said.
Last week, the CDC updated its guidance on face coverings to more clearly state that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19. Still, it didn't formally recommend N95s over cloth masks.