Last week, the administration announced that 400 million N95 respirator masks would be made available free of charge to the public in community health centers and pharmacies throughout the country. This announcement was made just days after the rollout a website to order free Covid-19 rapid test. 

The United States Strategic National Stockpile will provide the N95 masks. There are no any official guidelines providing KN95 mask free because it’s not US standard. This is the federal government's reserve of critical medicines and supplies to be used in an emergency. The White House referred to the initiative as the largest deployment of personal protection equipment in American history. Although it is late, some experts believe that the administration's decision to give away more personal protective equipment signals that they are moving beyond a vaccine-centric campaign in order to combat and control the pandemic. 

The administration seems to be finally responding to criticism this winter for its domestic response. You may be wondering how to obtain the masks as they make their way across the country. Here are the facts. 

When and where will the N95 Masks be made available? 

The Covid-19 free rapid tests will be sent by mail to those who sign up from the govt site. Americans will need to pick up the N95 masks at their local pharmacy or community health center (many of these centers serve vulnerable and underserved populations), which are available as early as this week. You may need to contact your local pharmacy to verify if the shipments have arrived. 

According to the White House, the masks will be available at thousands of locations by February 1. In recent days, pharmacies have already received their N95 masks from the White House and distributed them to customers.

Participating pharmacies in the distribution of N95 masks are the same that those that have partnered with government to offer Covid-19 vaccines for the public. 

Why choose N95s over cloth or surgical masks 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently issued updated guidance, stated that while all respirators and masks provide some protection, properly fitted respirators -- which is the technical name for a face-mask like the N95 -- "provides the highest level protection." 

Experts are increasingly arguing that cloth masks are inadequate to face a virus such as the omicron version of Covid-19. They are not very efficient at stopping small airborne particles passing through to the wearer. 

N95 masks are named after the fact that they filter at least 95 percent of all airborne particles including aerosol particles. If worn correctly, they are snugger than surgical masks which are usually looser fitting. 

The administration will be giving out N95 masks. However, masks such as KN95 masks and KF94 masks can also provide the same level of protection. They are readily available at retailers. (N95s are certified according to standards established by the United States government. KN95 masks are certified under the Chinese government and KF94 masks under the South Korean government.