I signed up for my free at-home COVID tests yesterday. Here is the link and it was really easy. We’ll see how long it takes to get here, but at least the sign up part was easy. Now I need to get in line for my Biden masks. The administration is making 400 million N95 masks available – for free – starting next week. With Omicron numbers continuing to climb and health officials saying the N95 mask is the best mask to protect yourself and others from the virus, this is welcome news.
The Biden administration will make 400 million N95 masks available to Americans for free starting next week, a White House official told CNN, the latest federal step aimed at reining in the US’ Covid-19 surge.
The masks — which are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile — will be made available at a number of local pharmacies and community health centers, the official said, adding that the program will be “fully up and running by early February.”
“This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history,” the official said.
People looking to pick up the free masks will be limited to three per person, a White House official said.
“To ensure broad access for all Americans, there will be three masks available per person. In addition to this program, thanks to the administration’s efforts, these high-quality masks are in ample supply and widely available to American consumers,” the official said.
The 400 million non-surgical N95 masks amount to more than half of the 750 million stored in the US’ Strategic National Stockpile, a figure that tripled over the last year as the White House sought to boost reserves. The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recently advised that well-fitting respirators approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health — such as N95 masks — offer “the highest level of protection” against Covid-19.
The N95 masks are a disposable mask. I hope that when they are handed out, they also explain things like proper fit/coverage, how many times these can be worn, etc. When these masks hit the drugstores, it’ll be a madhouse, but it’s important that people wear them correctly too. I’m grateful to hear they will be made available to everyone. N95 masks can get expensive. The N95 mask is a filter, which is the difference between them and other masks. The CDC and other health organizations are now saying that regular cloth masks are not doing enough to protect you from the transmissibility of Omicron. The CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, went so far as to call cloth masks mere “facial decorations” when it comes to Omicron. I have cloth masks with a filter that’s inserted. The insert feels the same as the N95 masks. I’ll have to ask the medical folk in my family if I’m okay there. As the article states, 400 million is half the county’s stockpile. That number would, however, allow for at least one mask for every person in the country, which is amazing.
I feel like we’re living inside that old joke: the one about the guy who hears there’s going to be a flood and says God will take care of him. A lifeboat comes to his door as the waters rise, and he turns them away, saying God will take care of him. As he’s on his roof, surrounded by water, a helicopter comes for him and he waves them off, saying God will take care of him. So he drowns. And as he stands before God, he asks Him, “why didn’t you save me?” God says, “I sent you a radio alert, a lifeboat, a helicopter – but you ignored all my attempts!” Masks, vaccines, boosters and testing are all tools in fighting the spread of this virus and saving our lives. They are all being made available to the people of the US at no cost as of next week. Many are available now. All we, as a country, need to do is take what is being given to us and exercise the necessary precautions. And yet, we’re sitting here, two years in, watching people get sick – and dying – in tragic numbers. And somehow people are mad at the government for not ending the pandemic.
Photo credit: InStar Images and Avalon Red