Biden administration to distribute 400 million N95 masks from national stockpile for free

Las pruebas comenzarán a ser enviadas el mes próximo.

The Biden administration, facing calls from public health experts to distribute high-quality masks to the American public, will announce this Wednesday that it will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks available, free of charge, at community health centers and retail pharmacies across the United States.

The move, which officials are calling the “largest deployment of personal protective equipment in US history,” comes just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance. about masks to recognize that cloth masks do not offer as much protection as surgical masks or respirators

The N95 masks, so called because they can filter 95 percent of all airborne particles when used correctly, they were in short supply early in the pandemic.

According to the CDC’s new description of masks, well-fitting respirators, including N95s, offer the highest level of protection.

Wednesday was also the formal launch day for covidtests.gov, the administration’s new website that allows Americans to request free at-home coronavirus tests.

The site quietly launched on Tuesday.

The administration has come under intense criticism for not acting sooner to distribute tests and masks to the public, especially as the Omicron variant leads to a huge spike in cases.

Some public health experts have suggested that the federal government should send N95 masks to every home.

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Jeff Zients, President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, told reporters last week that the administration was “actively exploring” ways to make high-quality masks available.

The White House said in a statement Wednesday that the government would begin shipping N95 masks to pharmacies and health centers by the end of this week, with the masks expected to be available by the end of next week.

The program would be in full swing in early February, according to the statement.

The masks will come from the Strategic National Stockpile, the nation’s emergency stockpile, which was severely depleted at the start of the pandemic, leaving health care workers without masks and other essential personal protective equipment to combat the new virus.

An investigation by The New York Times published in March found that, for years, the reserves were largely spent on protection against bioterrorist attacks; for most of the last decade, almost half of its budget was spent on the anthrax vaccine.

China made half of the world’s masks before the coronavirus emerged there, and the country was stockpiling them, leaving hospitals in the United States and the rest of the world scrambling for supplies.

As late as December 2020, the United States was still facing an alarming shortage of personal protective equipment.

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The Biden administration promised to correct those shortcomings.

At a Senate hearing last week, Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services, said the stockpile now had 737 million N95 masks, all from domestic manufacturers.

The government is also soliciting proposals from companies that have the capacity to increase production to 141 million N95 masks per month in a crisis, and that could keep manufacturing at a much lower rate when demand is lower, so that the nation never get caught up in a public health emergency again, O’Connell said.

The idea, he said, is that the reserve “maintain this capacity that we currently have even when demand decreases.”

Read more
* COVID-19: The 10 richest people in the world doubled their wealth during the pandemic, according to Oxfam
* Moderna is working on the development of a joint vaccine against influenza and COVID, it would be ready in 2023
* COVID: why Ómicron is having a more serious effect in the US than in Europe and South Africa

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