This comes days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced its preference for N95 masks over cloth masks, saying they provide more protection.
Studies have shown masks to have varying levels of effectiveness both as protection for the wearer and to stop infected individuals from spreading the virus.
Studies have shown cloth masks to be much less effective than the N95s and KN95s.
The best mask “is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Jan. 12.
The free masks will come from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which totals more than 750 million masks. The masks will be shipped out this week for distribution at pharmacies and community health centers starting late next week, the White House stated.
President Joe Biden first announced the plan in a Jan. 13 speech.
“So, next week we’ll announce how we are making high-quality masks available to the American people for free,” Biden said.
The White House stated that “to ensure broad access for all Americans, there will be three masks available per person.”
The CDC recommends “limited reuse” of N95 masks for health care workers.
Details as to what kind of masks the government will provide weren’t immediately clear.
Between April and September 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) distributed 5.1 million adult and 7.4 million children’s sized washable cloth masks to health centers.
The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that N95 respirators aren’t designed for children or people with facial hair.
The CDC counted more than 66 million new COVID-19 cases and 850,000 new deaths nationally over the past 30 days as the more contagious but apparently less deadly Omicron variant continues its surge.
The Biden administration also launched a new website on Jan. 19 for Americans to order COVID test kits and have them shipped to their homes for free.