President Joe Biden's administration plans to announce that it will give away 400 million nonsurgical N95 masks free of charge at community health centers and retail pharmacies nationwide on Wednesday (January 19), the New York Times reports.
The reported decision comes days after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidance to acknowledge that surgical masks or respirators provide better protection than cloth masks in relation to the spread of the coronavirus.
The distribution is reportedly being referred to by officials as the "largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history," the New York Times reports.
N95 respirators get their name because they can filter out 95% of all airborne particles when used properly, but have been in short supply amid a high demand early in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, therefore, consumers have opted for alternatives.
However, the CDC's new mask guidelines confirm that well-fitting respirators, including N95s, provide the best level of protection against the spread of COVID-19, as opposed to cloth masks.
Wednesday will also serve as the formal launch for covidtests.gov, which provides information and a link for all Americans to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests completely free, one day after its quiet rollout on Tuesday (January 18).