As COVID-19 at-home rapid tests continue to be delivered to homes, now N95 masks are also being distributed by the federal government. This time, you’ll have to leave the house to find them.
The masks are part of the 400 million N95s being made available by the Biden Administration for people to pick up. They are starting to arrive at pharmacies throughout the country, including in San Diego County.
NBC 7 reached out to a handful of retail pharmacies that are listed by the CDC as collaborating with the federal government on COVID-19 vaccines to see if they also have plans to receive and distribute the N95 masks.
A spokesperson for Rite Aid Corp. sent a statement that said, in part, “we anticipate the free N95 masks will be available in some stores beginning later this week.” Customers shopping at a Rite Aid in Pacific Beach were pleasantly surprised when they walked in and noticed a table inside near the entrance with the free masks.
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“I didn’t realize that the masks were available yet,” Larry Grove, who went into the store and picked up a stack, said. “I thought it was still something weeks off.”
The masks were organized into groups of three, along with a sign explaining that they were free. Some people walked up hesitantly, expecting to need to sign for them or show identification, which was not necessary.
“I’m just really happy we can actually get COVID supplies right now and we don’t have to wait,” Camille McMullen said. She explained that she travels often, and plans to use the N95 masks while on the plane.
Here is the full statement from Rite Aid:
As a partner of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we are proud to help make these free high-quality masks easily accessible and convenient for our customers at all of our locations, providing them with another tool in the continued fight against COVID-19. We anticipate the free N95 masks will be available in some stores beginning later this week with all stores receiving them by early February. 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.
NBC 7 also received statements from CVS Pharmacy, Ralphs and Walgreens.
Through our participation in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, we’re offering free N95 masks provided by the Federal Government at select CVS Pharmacy stores and our pharmacies inside Target and Schnucks. Inventory has begun arriving at these locations and will continue on a rolling basis as additional supply becomes available. Masks are limited to three per person, while supplies last, and signs are posted to indicate N95 mask availability. Our distribution of these masks is an extension of our commitment to providing equitable access to the tools necessary to fight COVID-19, including testing, vaccines and authorized therapies.
A spokesperson for CVS added that nearly 9,800 locations are expected to receive these masks. Customers can ask for masks at the front of store checkout or at pharmacy counters inside of larger stores like Target.
Ralphs is grateful for the ongoing role we’re able to play in helping our associates and customers protect themselves and our communities against COVID-19. At this time we are awaiting our distribution of masks from the Strategic National Stockpile and are prepared to make them available to the public as soon as we receive them. In San Diego County, the masks will be available near check stands at our nine Ralphs locations that are equipped with a pharmacy.
You are able to find a list of Ralphs locations with a pharmacy here.
We are pleased to partner with the Administration to make N95 masks in varying sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last. Masks have begun to rollout to the first wave of stores and will continue to rollout into additional stores in the coming days and weeks. We anticipate all participating stores will receive supply by mid-February.
In addition to in-store signage indicating store participation in the federal program, Walgreens will frequently update its N95 mask program store locator list as shipments arrive in-store. http://walgreens.com/N95StoreList.
According to the Walgreens N95 mask program store locator, as of Friday afternoon, there are no locations in California that are offering the masks.
NBC 7 also reached out to Albertsons Companies, Inc. which is responsible for stores like Vons, as well as Costco Wholesale Corp., Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Walmart, Inc. We have not received responses from the majority of them, but Costco did not want to comment.
If you’re looking for help understanding how many times N95s are able to be reused, click here.