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Free N95 masks will be available in Washington ‘in the coming days’

This will be the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

SEATTLE — Washingtonians will soon be able to pick up free N95 masks from local pharmacies.

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) said Friday the masks would be available “in the coming days.”

Last week, the Biden administration announced it would be sending 400 million N95 masks to pharmacies and community health centers across the country for Americans to pick up for free. The masks come from the government's Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand.

The White House said up to three masks will be available per person in the U.S.

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Federal officials are emphasizing N95 masks provide better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

The DOH said Friday a list of participating pharmacies is not yet available. However, the White House said the masks would be available at pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some partner pharmacies in Washington include:

  • Albertsons Companies, Inc (including Safeway)
  • Costco Wholesale Corp.
  • CVS Pharmacy, Inc
  • Kroger Co. (including Fred Meyer and QFC)
  • Rite Aid Corp.
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart, Inc.

Bartell Drugs also posted on its website the free N95 masks would be available in its stores.

A full list of partners in Washington can be found on the CDC’s website.

Earlier this month, the CDC updated its guidance on face coverings to more clearly state that properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer the most protection against COVID-19. Still, it didn't formally recommend N95s over cloth masks.

The best mask “is the one that you will wear and the one you can keep on all day long, that you can tolerate in public indoor settings,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.