N95 masks will be sent to Americans for free; plan to be announced next week

Update:

9:47 a.m. ET: President Joe Biden said at a news conference Thursday that his administration will be announcing plans to make N95 masks available to Americans for free.

The details of the plan will come next week, Biden said.

Original story:

The Biden administration is “strongly considering” sending N95 or KN95 masks to all Americans, according to the White House COVID-19 coordinator.

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While Jeff Zients said at a press briefing Wednesday that the idea is being actively explored, he did not give any further details or a timeline of when the masks would be sent out if the administration goes ahead with the plan.

Politico reported that a decision on sending masks to anyone who wants one could come as soon as Thursday.

The director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said Wednesday that the agency would not change its guidance on the types of masks it recommends to include the N95 masks.

“CDC continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask and we do encourage all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19. And, the recommendation is not going to change,” Walensky said during the White House COVID-19 response team briefing.

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the N95 masks have been directed to health care workers and other first responders.

Zients said the Biden administration had pushed for increasing the manufacturing of N95s and it now has 750 million masks stockpiled for health care workers and first responders.

Zients’ comments come as a memo published by Congress’ attending physician told legislators that “surgical masks, cloth face masks and gaiter masks must be replaced by the more protective KN95 or N95 masks.”

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