On Tuesday, the Biden administration announced that it will be shipping 400 million masks free of cost to pharmacies and community centers across the nation. These masks have been sourced from the national stockpile. The White House announced that the masks will be distributed as a part of its efforts to fight the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant. The administration is also sending free at home rapid testing kits through its website.
The N95 masks will be shipped by the end of the week. The program will be fully operational by mid February. The masks have been obtained from the Strategic National Stockpile. The Biden administration had built supplies of these masks in its national stockpile.
On Tuesday, Dawn O’Connell, who is the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, said that the government currently has 737 millions N95 masks in stock. The masks have been sourced from domestic manufacturers. Over 50 percent of these N95 masks will be send to thousands of pharmacies and community centers across the nation.
Recent Democrats and independent Senator Bernie Sanders had urged Biden to release these masks as research showed that cloth masks were less effective in preventing the spread of omicron. N95 masks are more expensive but offer much better protection against omicron, according to recent studies.
Earlier last week, President Biden said that he understood that these masks were “not always affordable or convenient to get.” He also said that he knew that everyone wanted “to be done with wearing masks.” However, he emphasized that masks were an important tool to fight the omicron variant.
Biden requested everyone to “please, please wear the mask.” This appeal comes at a time when Republican states have eased regulations for wearing masks although there is a surge in COVID-19 cases, due to the highly transmissible omicron variant.
On Tuesday, the government also launched its website for COVID tests to be sent to American homes. Four at home tests will be available for each household. The website will be officially launched on Wednesday. President Joe Biden will address the nation on the administration’s preparedness to battle the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, on Wednesday.