The federal government will soon be distributing N95 masks to the general public.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials recommended that the public not use N95 masks so that they would be available to healthcare professionals. But, like so much of the guidance we’ve been given during the pandemic, that has now changed.

From the CDC website:

Masks and respirators (i.e., specialized filtering masks such as “N95s”) can provide different levels of protection depending on the type of mask and how they are used. Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.

The guidance now specifies that “surgical N95s” should be reserved for healthcare workers.

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With the recent news that cloth masks aren’t as effective in protecting against the COVID-19 omicron variant that’s currently spreading across the country, the Biden administration will make 400 million N95 masks available for free starting next week, according to KCEN-TV.

The masks are a part of the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, made up of over 750 million masks.

Where to get a free N95 mask

The masks will be available at both pharmacies and community health centers nationwide beginning late next week. There aren’t currently details as to whether or not child-sized masks would be available as part of the program.

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