MILWAUKEE — With the Biden Administration’s promise to make 400 million N95 masks available for free at community health centers and pharmacies nationwide, places like Hayat Pharmacy and Sixteenth Street Community Health Center are excited to be able to give their clients the gold standard in virus protection.
“Fighting this pandemic, we had to use a lot of different tools and this is just another tool that's been available, but at a cost. But now, with the new announcement, soon everybody's going to be able to get this brand name, top of the line, best filtration at no charge,” said Dr. Hashim Zaibak, Hayat Pharmacy.
The masks come at a time when COVID-19 cases are at some of their highest levels since the height of the pandemic.
“Since the beginning of this pandemic, this community, the area that we serve has been particularly hard hit. We have reached positive rates of over 50% sometimes, so we're really honored and excited to be able to offer one more kind of barrier-breaking tool for the community that we serve,” said Elizabeth Claudio, Vice President of Operations, Sixteenth Street Community Health Center.
The White House says the N95 masks, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile, will start shipping out this week, with hopes of reaching full distribution by early February. Organizers say this comes at not a moment too soon.
“I think the big word is access. Every American lives within five miles of a pharmacy with a few exceptions, of course, so having access to every person in the United States is a reason for choosing pharmacies to distribute those masks,” said Dr. Zaibak.
“The community health centers have long been serving the most vulnerable populations. It makes sense to supply these masks, increased vaccine access, all of those things because we have such a high rate of COVID in these areas that it just makes sense from a public health position,” said Claudio.
This comes just one day after the federal website to order free at-home COVID tests went live, offering an added tool in the fight against the virus. Organizers say they hope to begin distributing their supplies in the coming days.