On Wednesday, Jan. 19, President Joe Biden announced that his administration will provide 400 million free N95 masks at various locations across the country.
The White House said in a statement that the masks come from the Strategic National Stockpile and will be available at pharmacies and community health centers, where citizens can also get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The masks will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week.
"This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history," said a White House official.
The 400 million non-surgical N95 masks account for more than half of the 750 million stockpiled in the Strategic National Stockpile.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently advised that well-fitting, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved respirators (such as N95s) offer "the highest level of protection" against COVID-19.
In response to this announcement, the White House said that "to ensure broad access for all Americans, three respirators will be available per person."
In addition, on Jan. 18, the government also announced that residents can now apply for free COVID-19 rapid home testing through the covidtests.gov website.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed that the government website was up and running as part of a "beta phase" on Tuesday, Jan. 18, before the formal launch on the morning of Jan. 19.