Wednesday's announcement by the White House stated that masks would be sourced from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile. This stockpile has more than 750,000,000 of highly protective masks. The masks can be picked up at pharmacies and community centers throughout the country. The White House announced that they will start shipping this week and distribution will begin late next week.
This will be the largest free distribution of masks by federal government to the public since COVID-19. The administration of then-President Donald Trump considered, but then abandoned plans to deliver masks to individuals at their homes in the early 2020s. After facing increasing criticism this month about the inaccessibility of N95 masks due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, President Joe Biden accepted the initiative.
Biden launched this week a website that allows Americans to order four quick tests for free. The first test will ship later in the month, after Biden was subject to similar criticisms over a winter shortage COVID-19 at home test kits.
The White House stated that the masks would be available at community health centers and pharmacies that have partnered in the federal government's COVID-19 vaccine campaign.
Friday's update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clarified that N95 and KN95 masks provide the best protection against COVID-19. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not recommend cloth masks over N95s.
According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC Director, the best mask is the one that you wear and that you can use all day. It also has the ability to be used indoors.
The details of the program were not immediately known, including what type of masks would be provided, whether they will be made available in kid-size, and whether or not the masks could possibly be reworn.
According to the White House, "To ensure that all Americans have access to healthcare services," there will be three masks per person.
While N95 and KN95 masks have greater availability now than ever before during the pandemic than any other time, they are often more expensive than cloth or surgical masks that are less protective.