Monday, January 31, 2022

N95 Mask Distribution

Where to get 3 free N95 masks in California as part of massive federal distribution

The Biden administration is releasing more than 400 million non-surgical N95 masks to the public for free to help combat the omicron surge and individuals across the country will be able to pick up three masks each from major pharmacy chains or community health centers in the coming days and weeks.

The first masks are set to become available in Northern California as soon as Thursday and the program is supposed to be fully in place by early February, according to the White House. This initial round of high-quality masks does not include pediatric sizes.

(In California, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services has also been giving away masks to school districts, chambers of commerce, nonprofit groups and other entities as part of a separate state program.)

Here is what else you should know about the new federal N95 giveaway, including where members of the public can get the masks in Northern California.

Where are these N95 masks coming from?

The masks, which are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), are being released from the Department of Health and Human Services Strategic National Stockpile. It’s the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history, according to the Biden administration.

Why are these masks being given away?

The Biden administration says that since using the Defense Production Act to ensure the country now has enough N95 masks for front-line workers it can afford to give away more masks to the general public to help protect communities. The national stockpile has tripled since January 2021 to more than 750 million N95s. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised that people “wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.” N95 respirators that fit properly can filter up to 95% of particles in the air.

How to get N95 masks at pharmacies

Many of the masks will become available at pharmacies that have participated in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program that has helped to deliver COVID-19 vaccines.

KCRA 3 reached out to several major pharmacy chains for an update on their participation. Below are their responses.


“We are pleased to partner with the Administration to make N95 masks in varying sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last. Customers and patients can pick up a maximum of three masks per person. We expect the first stores to begin offering masks on Friday, Jan. 28, and will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks following. Participating stores will have signage indicating mask availability.”


"Through our participation in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we’ll be offering free N95 masks provided by the Federal Government at CVS Pharmacy stores and our pharmacies inside Target and Schnucks. Inventory is expected to begin to arrive at these locations as early as Thursday and will continue on a rolling basis as additional supply becomes available. Masks are limited to three per person, while supplies last, and signs will be posted to indicate N95 mask availability. Our distribution of these masks is an extension of our commitment to providing equitable access to the tools necessary to fight COVID-19, including testing, vaccines and authorized therapies."

Albertsons Companies (includes Osco, Jewel-Osco, Albertsons, Albertsons Market, Safeway, Tom Thumb, Star Market, Shaw’s, Haggen, Acme, Randalls, Carrs, Market Street, United, Vons, Pavilions, Amigos, Lucky’s, Pak n Save, Sav-On):

“Albertsons Companies is committed to the health and safety of our associates and communities. In addition to providing vaccinations and boosters at our pharmacies, we are participating in the federal government’s initiative to distribute free non-surgical N95 masks nationwide in the coming weeks. We are currently working to finalize details regarding inventory and distribution.”

Rite Aid

"As a partner of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we are proud to help make these free high-quality masks easily accessible and convenient for our customers at all of our locations, providing them with another tool in the continued fight against COVID-19. We anticipate the free N95 masks will be available in some stores beginning later this week with all stores receiving them by early February. Customers will be able to pick up the masks, with a limit of 3 masks per person, at an in-store display or the pharmacy counter while supplies last."

Costco (which is also a partner on the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program)

"Management has no comment at this time."

Free N95 masks at health centers

The initial phase of this program will distribute the N95 masks to approximately 100-200 health centers nationwide. HHS and HRSA plan to expand the program to additional health centers in the coming weeks.

Of the 18 FQHCs in California that have opted-in to the initial phase of the program, they operate 447 service delivery sites, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

One of the health centers on the initial list is Stockton-based Community Medical Centers, Inc. KCRA 3 has reached out for comment on how the center plans to distribute its masks.

Other initial California centers include:

  • El Centro: Clinicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc.
  • Escondido: Neighborhood Healthcare
  • Long Beach: The Children's Clinic 'Serving Children and Their Families'
  • Los Angeles: Altamed Health Services Corporation
  • Los Angeles: St. John's Well Child and Family Center, Inc.
  • Madera: Camarena Health
  • Nipoma: Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, Inc.
  • Novato: Marin Community Clinic
  • Oakland: La Clinica de la Raza, Inc.
  • Redding: Shasta Community Health Center
  • Riverside: Riverside County Health System
  • Salinas: Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas
  • Salinas: Monterey County
  • San Diego: Family Health Centers of San Diego, Inc.
  • San Diego: La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc.
  • Ukiah: Mendocino Community Health Clinic, Inc.
  • Visalia: Family Healthcare Network

“By mid-February, HRSA anticipates that masks will be made available to all health centers and Health Center Program look-alikes who wish to order them,” Health and Humans Services spokesperson Kirsten Allen said.

Here is a map of where to find more FQHC health centers.

Source: KCRA News