By Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) –The rollout of free N95 masks for the public started nationwide this week and some local pharmacies will start handing them out as early as Thursday or Friday.

Winn-Dixie, and Fresco y Más will distribute masks as early as Jan. 28, according to a press release from Southeastern Grocers.

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Most of the pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy vaccine program, including CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Sam’s Club, are also participating in the free N95 masks program.

Walgreens starts distribution on Friday Jan. 28, according to an online release.

The program is part of the Biden administration’s effort to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile via pharmacies and community health centers. The program is expected to be fully up and running by early February. The masks are arriving at their destinations with accompanying flyers and signage from the US Department of Health and Human Services, which paid for the masks.

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“Every person is allowed up to 3 free masks pending availability,” the Department of Health and Human Services states.

Pharmacies plan to monitor how many masks people are taking at a time to make sure they don’t take extra.

The 400 million N95 masks amount to more than half of the 750 million stored in the Strategic National Stockpile, a figure that tripled over the past year as the White House sought to boost reserves.

The White House launched its latest effort to combat COVID-19 following new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC now says cloth masks are no longer as effective in preventing the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus and that people should wear an N95 or KN95 mask.

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