Here’s where to get your free N95 masks starting this week

Jas fthree home COVID-19 tests hit mailboxes across the country, the federal government is launching another key initiative to fight the pandemic: free masks.

The Biden administration has started shipping N95 masks to pharmacies and community health centers across the country as part of its plan to get hundreds of millions of high-quality masks into the hands of Americans for free. Some pharmacies, including some Walmart and Meijer branches, have already started giving out free masks, and several other national chains say they will start giving them out later this week.

Properly fitting N95 masks offer the highest level of protection against COVID-19, according to the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention (CDC). On January 19, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that they would make 400 million N95 masks from the National Strategic Stockpile available to the public free of charge. Each person is entitled to three free masks, supply permitting. The program is expected to come into full effect in early February.

Some Hy-Vee, Walmart and Meijer locations began distributing masks as early as Jan. 21, according to White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients. CVS, Kroger and Walgreens announced that some sites are receiving their first shipments of masks this week and will begin distributing them soon after.

“This is the largest deployment of PPE, personal protective equipment, in US history,” Zients said during a COVID-19 press briefing Jan. 26.

The free N95 masking initiative is separate from the free at-home COVID-19 testing program available through COVIDtests.gov. Unlike the testing program, which involves sending free tests via US mail, the masks must be picked up in person.

“We just determined that the fastest way to get the masks out was through the channels we use for vaccines — including community health centers and local pharmacies,” Zients said.

Where to get free N95 masks from the federal government

Beyond the three-per-person limit, it’s unclear what rules, if any, affect how masks are distributed. In a statement to Money, CVS says it won’t check IDs when customers pick up free face masks.

Here are more details on where and when you can get high-quality free face masks.

Who is giving out free masks right now?

CVS, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Meijer, Walgreens and Walmart are already participating in some locations – or plan to by the end of the week.

In a statement shared with Money, Walgreens says its first batch of stores plans to distribute masks starting Friday, Jan. 28.

Select Kroger locations will follow soon. “We expect to begin receiving our allowance later this week,” Kroger spokeswoman Kristal Howard said, noting that the free masks will only be available at “Kroger stores with pharmacies.”

Additionally, about 100 community health centers in several states plan to roll out the program this week, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers.

Not all community health centers or pharmacies will have early access to free N95 masks. Those who have them should display them HHS signage on the free mask program.

Many more centers and pharmacies will be added soon.

Which pharmacies will distribute free masks?

Once the program is in full effect, you will be able to get N95 brands for free from 21 major drugstore chains and networks.

These pharmacies are part of a “federal retail pharmacy program” that was originally created to provide COVID-19 vaccines nationwide. Soon they will also start distributing N95 masks.

Notable pharmacies include:

  • Acme Pharmacies
  • Albertson
  • Costco
  • SVC
  • Lion food
  • giant food
  • Hy Vee
  • Kroger locations with pharmacies
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Ritual Aid
  • Safeway
  • Walgreens (including Duane Reade)
  • Walmart (including Sam’s Club)
  • Pharmacies Winn Dixie

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiles a Exhaustive list of all retail pharmacy partners, including state-by-state locations.

Which community health centers distribute free masks?

As of January 26, approximately 100 community centers in more than 30 states as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, are participating in the initial phase of the free mask program.

The following areas have at least one health center scheduled to distribute masks:

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Porto Rico
  • Caroline from the south
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Many more health centers will be added as the program scales up. Check frequently with the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) for an update list of participating centers.

Other Ways to Get Free Government Masks

Apart from the free mask program run by the federal government, several states have their own free mask programs already distributing tens of millions of KN95, N95 and/or surgical masks.

California, Connecticut, Colorado, New York and Washington all distributed free masks to their residents ahead of the federal program.

Each state’s curriculum is unique, but states typically distribute them to schools, libraries, community centers, and local health departments. Here is an overview of where to get free masks in some states.


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