Free N95 masks: where to get them and how to wear them

For the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

The omicron BA.5 subvariant is 80% of the current COVID-19[feminine] cases, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coupled with the closely related BA.4, this percentage jumps to almost 95% of infections.

The new strains are highly contagious, leading to a growing wave of infections, including in the United States President Joe Biden and the senses. Joe Manchin and Lisa Murkowski. There are currently more than 35,000 hospitalizations in the United States alone, with admission rates in some states increasing by up to 90% from two weeks ago.

To protect loved ones, neighbors and themselves, more and more Americans are starting to wear masks again. N95 masks are recognized as offering the best protection against COVID-19. Earlier this year, the Biden administration shipped first 400 million N95 masks of the National Strategic Stock, and the masks are always available for free in many pharmacies, retailers and health centers nationwide.

Where can you get N95 masks? Keep reading to find out. To learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic, find out the difference between N95, KN95 and KF94 masks, whether they are home COVID tests work on new subvariantsand how to order 16 free tests.

Why does the CDC recommend N95 masks?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Protection guidelines, N95 masks “provide the highest level of protection” against the spread of COVID-19. Many experts have criticized the CDC for discouraging Americans from using N95 masks early in the pandemic and not recommending them sooner.

While “any mask is better than no mask”, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, N95 respirators can filter at least 95% of aerosol particles as small as 0.3 microns. The elastic headband and adjustable metal band across the bridge of the nose on an N95 mask also help create a much tighter seal than cloth masks.

Continue reading: 8 myths about COVID-19 face masks, debunked

Inspected and approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, N95s are also made from polypropylene, a plastic with a built-in electrical charge that attracts foreign particles – like virus droplets – and traps them inside. inside the fibers of the mask.

N95s are the “pillar of protection against airborne pathogens,” according to an August 2020 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

CVS is one of many drugstore chains giving out free N95 masks.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Where can you get free N95 masks?

CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, Rite Aid, Publix, Walmart and Sam’s Club are among the many US retailers that are part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and will distribute free N95 masks.

Customers will be limited to three masks per person.

Walgreens has a running list of locations nationwide that offer free masks, with “signage indicating mask availability” outside the store.

The CDC website lets you enter your zip code to find a location near you where you can get free masks.

How much do N95 masks cost?

Demand for N95 masks surged after the CDC revised its forecast, according to Bloomberg, leading to a predictable price hike. A pack of 50 Kimberly-Clark N95 masks cost around $24 in early October 2021, but now sells on Amazon for around $58.

N95 masks typically come in packs of 10, 20, or 50. On Project N95, a nonprofit organization that verifies personal protective equipment, the cost of a box of masks is around 2 to 2, $50 per mask.

Read more: The best face masks to avoid spreading COVID-19

How to put on an N95 mask?

According to the CDC, an N95 mask must form a tight seal around your face to work properly.

When putting on your N95, make sure your hands are dry and clean and always inspect the mask for tears, dirt, moisture, or other damage.

Hold it in your hand with your fingers on the bridge of the nose. Place the bottom of the mask under your chin and the nose bar over your nose. Pull the top strap over your head, securing it near the crown. Then pull the lower strap until it is around your neck, below your ears.

Make sure the elastic straps are flat and have not crisscrossed.


For a secure fit, pull the top strap of your N95 over your head and lay it over the crown. The bottom strap should go around the back of your neck, below your ears.


To mold the nose bridge to your nose, place your fingers on either side and press down.

You’ll want to check for gaps every time you put on an N95 mask. If you wear it correctly, your breath should pass through the mask and not over its edges. If your mask is too big, too small or poorly fitted, it can create gaps between your face and the edge of the mask.

According to the CDC, jewelry, glasses, and facial hair can also interfere with adequate coverage.

To make sure the mask fits properly, gently place your hands on it, covering it as much as possible, and exhale. If you feel air escaping from the sides or if you are wearing glasses and they fog up, there is a gap.

You may need to try a different size or style to get a good seal. But according to the CDC, “Even if you can’t seal the N95 against your face, it will probably provide better protection than a cloth mask.”

After removing your N95, wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.

If you have heart disease or breathing problems, talk to your doctor before using an N95. Also, if you have a latex allergy, check the manufacturer’s website to make sure the one you have is safe to use.

How many times can you wear an N95 mask?

According to the CDC, you shouldn’t use an N95 mask more than five times in total. Any deterioration or fraying of the straps means they are not creating a tight seal and should be discarded.

Medical experts generally agree that the COVID-19 virus does not survive on surfaces for longer than three days. Going through your N95 masks every three or four days should ensure they are virus-free.

Handmade N95 mask

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, N95 masks are the “pillar of protection against airborne pathogens.”


The duration of wearing the mask is more important than the frequency. Richard Flagan, a chemical engineer at the California Institute of Technology who studies masks and aerosols, told The Associated Press that N95 masks should be limited to two or three days. The CDC recommends health workers use N95 masks no more than five times.

Experts have tested methods for cleaning and reusing N95 masks, including exposing them to vaporous hydrogen peroxide or ultraviolet light, but neither method has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

A 2020 study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine looked at boiling face masks and letting them air dry, but the results weren’t peer-reviewed and haven’t been endorsed by regulators.

When should you use an N95 mask?

Due to supply chain issues, the CDC had previously recommended that N95 masks be reserved for healthcare workers. With more than 750 million masks on reserve in the strategic national stockpile, the agency now says there are enough for anyone to wear.

The agency clarified that “surgical N95s,” a specific type of respirator with additional safeguards, should still be reserved for healthcare workers.

When should you wear an N95 mask? The CDC recommends using one:

  • In public transports
  • In crowded indoor spaces or outdoor spaces where you cannot socially distance
  • For people who have to interact with large groups of people
  • For people who are not vaccinated or not up to date with boosters
  • For people at increased risk of developing a severe response to COVID-19
  • For those caring for someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

Most N95 masks are designed for adult faces and lungs, with only a handful of manufacturers making KN95s and other high-quality masks suitable for young children.

How to avoid counterfeit masks

As demand for high-quality masks grew, so did counterfeits: according to the CDC, 60% of KN95 masks failed to meet required standards.

To make sure your N95 respirator is not counterfeit, look for the NIOSH approval symbol, which should start with the letters “TC” followed by seven numbers.

Ignore anything labeled “FDA Registered”: According to the Food and Drug Administration’s website, facilities involved in the production of medical devices are required to register each year, but that doesn’t mean they have to. have been approved or authorized.

Carefully review seller ratings and product reviews and beware of new sellers who seem to pop up out of nowhere.

Since KN95 respirators are not regulated by NIOSH, it is harder to spot a fake. But the FDA still keeps a list of approved KN95 masks from 2020, when it approved them for use under an emergency use authorization.

The CDC also has a list of N95, KN95, KF94, and other non-NIOSH-approved face masks that have passed filtration testing, as well as known counterfeits.

However, the best way to ensure that you receive a NIOSH-approved mask is to get one directly from a healthcare professional or a reputable retailer like CVS or Walgreens.

You can also rely on trusted online resellers like Project N95.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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