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White House distributing 400million free N95 masks starting next week

The Biden administration plans to distribute 400million N95 masks to Americans for free at pharmacies and health centers beginning next week, a White House official said.

The news comes as coronavirus infections and hospitalizations hit record highs across the US, largely caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. The masks will be taken from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile, which currently has over 750million of the highly protective masks on hand, the White House said Wednesday.

Masks will be shipped out across the country beginning late next week, though the program likely will not be fully up and running until early February. They will be limited to three masks per person.

One White House official told CNN that it will be ‘the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history.’

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently advised that well-fitting masks, such as N95, offer the highest level of protection against the coronavirus.

‘I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it,’ Biden said last week during remarks on his administration’s coronavirus response. ‘But there is a . . . they’re a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of the highly transmittable Omicron variant. So, please, please wear the mask.’

An average of more than 750,000 new Covid-19 infections were reported every day over the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

In addition to the masks, the federal government this week launched its website to sign up for free Covid-19 tests.

The site states, ‘every home in the US is eligible to order 4 free at-⁠home Covid-⁠19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.’

Each household can order up to four rapid test kits, and are xpected to be shipped out toward the end of January. Delivery of the kits could take up to 12 days, but officials expect that window to shorten as the program progresses.

President Joe Biden announced the government would buy 500million kits to send to Americans nearly a month ago, when coronavirus cases began to surge due to the Omicron variant.

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