Free N95 Face Masks Will Soon Be Available in America

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In addition to free COVID tests shipped by USPS, the Biden administration will soon offer 400 million free N95 masks to the American public. This marks the largest distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) in United States history.

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These free masks will be available starting next week, according to CNN, and the entire initiative should be fully operational by early February. Coming from the Strategic National Stockpile — the U.S.'s storehouse for vaccines, antibiotics, and other medical supplies — the masks will be accessible at community health centers and local pharmacies. Each person will be limited to three free masks.

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As of right now, the CDC states that "NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection [from particles including the virus that causes COVID-19]." N95 masks also contain one's respiratory droplets and particles, preventing others from becoming exposed.

There is no word on exactly what date this N95 mask program will begin, or which pharmacies will participate, so keep an eye out for news from the White House.

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Can you reuse N95 masks?

N95 masks cannot be thrown in the washing machine like cloth ones can and, according to the CDC, they are meant to be disposed of between each use. However, if you are in a critical situation where N95 masks are in short supply, you can reuse them if they are not soiled or torn.

"Ideally, you would have at least seven [disposable masks for each day of the week], and would put each one in a paper bag labeled with each day of the week to dry and naturally decontaminate between uses," Dr. Shan Soe-Lin — who holds a PhD in Experimental Medicine and a B.Sc in Microbiology and Immunology, both from McGill University, and a Master in Public Health degree from the Harvard School of Public Health — told Hunker in May 2020.

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