Free high-quality masks will soon be available nationwide as part of a new White House initiative, but you may not have to wait for that giveaway to begin: Several states are distributing tens of millions of free masks ahead of Joe Biden’s federal program.
The White House recently announced plans to hand out 400 million N95 masks through thousands of pharmacies and community health centers in an effort to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Masks from federal stockpiles may be available as soon as the week of Jan. 24, with the program fully rolling out sometime in February. But if you need free high-quality masks before then, you may already have some options.
Where to get free N95 and KN95 masks
Here’s a look at several states that are distributing masks through their own local stockpiles — separately from the new federal program.
California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) announced this week that it has sent out over 20 million more masks to county education boards to expand free access for state educators, students and school staff.
Cal OES says it has already sent more than 1 billion units of PPE to schools, communities and medical centers throughout the state. And more are available.
“Even with this latest distribution,” Cal OES says, “California still maintains a robust supply of hundreds of millions of pieces of PPE and other critical supplies that remain available to be rapidly deployed to communities in need.”
Colorado officials said KN95 masks are available for free around the state, starting Jan. 19.
The masks are currently available at dozens of libraries and community centers across the state. The government has released a full list of locations online and is limiting the number of masks to five per person, per month.
At the end of December, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont unveiled plans to distribute millions of masks and COVID-19 rapid tests to residents in waves.
Six million free N95 masks are included in the initiative.
The state began distributing both tests and masks on Dec. 30 to the general public through community centers and government agencies, schools and libraries. And it earmarked a special supply of masks and testing kits for K-12 schools throughout the state. Distribution for schools began in early January and will continue throughout the school year.
In late December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul detailed her administration’s plan to combat the winter COVID-19 surge. Hochul says the state will be distributing 6 million free masks through businesses, schools, libraries and other community centers.
New York Public Radio site Gothamist reported on Jan. 18 that 5 million masks have already been distributed, but that as much as 5% of the masks are of “questionable” quality. State officials are currently recalling and replacing the questionable ones with KN95 masks.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a press conference in early January that the state will begin distributing free high-quality masks this month from state reserves in an effort to combat surging COVID-19 cases.
As part of the program, approximately 10 million masks, including KN95 and surgical masks, will be available at local emergency management agencies, K-12 schools and health departments.
Millions of free tests are also available as well. Residents will be able to use a forthcoming online portal to order at-home COVID-19 tests for free through a state partnership with Amazon.