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Where to get free N95 masks on Long Island

The Biden administration has begun shipping 400 million N95 masks that will be given to adults free of charge to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

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The masks, to be distributed at local pharmacies and community health centers, come from the Strategic National Stockpile, which is used during public health emergencies. Experts contend N95 masks provide the greatest amount of protection among facial coverings against the virus

The distribution effort represents the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history and is expected to be fully operational by early February, officials said. Masks are limited to three per person.

Here’s everything you need to know about the mask distribution:

When and where will these masks be made available?

The administration began shipping N95 masks out last week to major pharmacies and retailers, including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and Costco. Several of the retailers told Newsday Monday that they expect to begin giving out masks this week.

“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,” Rite Aid said in a statement.

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CVS said its inventory recently began arriving at some of its 9,800 stores and pharmacies and will continue on a rolling basis as additional supply becomes available.

Walgreens said masks are being shipped to participating stores. The company’s program store locator indicates masks are currently in stock on Long Island in Deer Park, Port Washington, Uniondale and Westhampton Beach.

Walmart said it anticipates masks will be available by the second week of February at the front of its 5,100 stores.

The retailers suggest members of the public call their pharmacists to check if their shipments have arrived.

Why N95 masks and not cotton or surgical masks?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided updated guidance stipulating that well-fitted masks or respirators, such as N95s, “provide the highest level of protection” against COVID-19.

Experts contend cloth masks have not been as successful as N95 masks in filtering out minuscule airborne virus particles, particularly during the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. N95 masks, officials said, also have a tighter fit than surgical masks.

Will N95 masks fit children?

The administration’s supply is for adult-use only. N95 masks were originally made for the health care and manufacturing sectors and are not intended for the use of children. Administration officials have said they are working to purchase masks, such as KN95 and KF94 respirator masks, that do have versions for children.

How often can I reuse an N95 mask?

The CDC recommends that N95 masks not be worn more than five times, in order to keep them sanitary and to prevent the ties’ elasticity from becoming loose. But experts said that depends on whether the masks have been in prolonged use during the day or if they are being slipped on and off for brief periods of time.

What else is the administration doing to reduce the spread of COVID?

In addition to stressing the vaccination of adults and children over the age of 5, the administration also recently created a website where Americans can order, for free, a set of four at-home COVID rapid tests. Orders were to start shipping in late January.

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