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As COVID’s Omicron variant slowly starts to subside, many organizations are still retaining their mask policies for now. Those who are at risk, have compromised immune systems, or have loved ones with those risks also greatly appreciate people continuing to slow the spread of COVID-19. That brings us to N95 masks, the extra-durable, tight-fitting masks that provide excellent protection against airborne viruses (whether you may contract or infect) and can be used multiple times. They halt 95% or more of particulate matter, much better than a casual cloth face covering.
These N95 masks are common in healthcare fields and similar situations, but as supplies have improved they are now being made available to almost everyone – and thanks to the latest programs, you can usually get them for free. But you can’t find them online. Here’s how to get your own stock, and everything else you need to know.
Use Your iPhone to Find Retailers in Your State
Not everyone is getting N95 masks to hand out. Only certain organizations that are partnering with the related federal government program can qualify. So your first step is to check for any qualified organizations in your area that are easy to stop by.
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The good news is there are a lot of participating companies, including some very common ones. Visit this CDC list to find all participating national pharmacies. It includes common options like:
- Rite Aid.
- Health Mart.
- Walmart and lots more.
Check to make sure your preferred pharmacy is there. You also have the choice of searching by state for local pharmacies, which may be faster if you aren’t sure who is participating in your area.
Give Them a Call to Check Stock
The N95 mask program only kicked into gear recently, and the rollout still continues. There’s no easy way to track what pharmacies have received shipments or not, so the best bet is to find their local number and give them a quick call. If they have masks in stock, they should be able to tell you and maybe give advice on when you should stop by to pick them up. Time to add it to your schedule!
If your local pharmacies don’t have any masks in stock yet, you may have to wait a few weeks for them to show up. If N95 masks are important to your plans, call every morning to ask about shipments.
Pick Up Your Masks
It’s better to visit sooner rather than later – pharmacies will be giving out N95s on a first-come, first-serve basis. You won’t be able to take any more than three masks. Fortunately, there aren’t really any other qualifications, so you should be able to show up, ask for masks, and be on your way.
Download the N95 Guide
N95s may work very well, but they also need more care when putting them on compared to more casual masks. One of the best options we’ve found is to download this iPhone app called N95 Guide. It’s very simple, but packed with good information on what to do. You can learn about the difference between wearing the mask for single-use vs reuse, how to fit the mask properly on your face, and more.