The Biden administration will distribute 400 million N95 masks for free via the country’s pharmacies and community health centers beginning next week. The effort will be fully operational by early February and every American will be entitled to three masks.

“This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history,” a White House official said to reporters. “Experts agree that masking is an important tool to control the spread of Covid-19.”

The Washington Post provides context:

The announcement comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided its most explicit guidance to date Friday on the protection offered by masks. Well-fitting respirators, such as the N95 products that are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “offer the highest level of protection” at reducing the spread of the virus, compared with cloth coverings and other masks.

The United States has more than 750 million N95 masks in the stockpile. Unlike earlier in the pandemic when severe shortages of personal protective equipment affected hospitals, forcing hospital staff to make homemade face shields and use bandannas, an ample supply of high-quality masks exists for health-care workers, officials said. Those masks are also widely available to the public online and in stores.

Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that would provide high-quality masks to the public.

On Wednesday, Sanders cheered the White House announcement, writing on Twitter, “Not all masks are created equal. N95s are far more effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. I applaud the Biden Administration for making 400 million N95 masks available for free around the country. It is a good first step, and more must be done.”

The New York Times adds:

Wednesday was also the formal launch day for, the administration’s new website enabling Americans to order at-home coronavirus tests free of charge. The site was quietly rolled out on Tuesday.