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Free N95 masks arriving in grocery stores and pharmacies

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Pharmacies and grocery stores have started to distribute the first of the 400 million N95 masks the White House is sending out around the country to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Biden administration says it is sending the masks to increase access to high-quality masks as the omicron variant continues to spread. Experts say the cloth masks that many people have worn for much of the pandemic aren't as effective against the easily spread variant.

Masks are already set up for distribution in some Hy-Vee and Meijer locations across the Midwest, with more to be in grocers and pharmacies later this week. Hy-Vee has locations in Columbia, Jefferson City and Osage Beach.

"Last week masks began shipping and arriving at pharmacies and grocers around (the) country. We expect that throughout the week the number of stores and N95s arriving to scale up significantly," an administration official told CNN on Monday.

Marva Miles a Hy-Vee customer picked up her free mask from a Hy-Vee store in Columbia, she says the masks are beneficial because they have not always been easy to find throughout the pandemic.

"We have got an uphill battle to climb and it seems like we just keep going in the hold instead of coming out," Miles said.

Along with the masks comes a flyer and a sign from The Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for the N95 masks to be disrupted nationwide.

The flyer includes a QR code that will direct you to instructions now how to properly put the mask on and take it off. The flyer also states that three of the 400 million N95 being distributed will be available to each person in the U.S.

The 400 million N95d are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile and will be distributed to pharmacies and community health centers, with the program fully up and running in early February.

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not plan to change its guidance on masks usage, as N95 masks become widely available. N95 masks help to better prevent tiny particles from getting into the nose or mouth and must be fitted to the face for the mask to function properly.

Dr. Robin Blount with Boone Health says. "any mask is better than no mask."

The CDC continues to encourage everyone to wear any type of mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 but to remember that different types of masks provide different levels of protection.

Erika McGuire

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