High-quality N95 masks provided by the federal government are becoming available for free at some pharmacies in Oregon that participate in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. This follows the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent update to its mask recommendations, encouraging the use of N95 masks in many situations. Oregon Health Authority is not involved in the distribution of these masks.
Omicron is far more contagious than previous COVID-19 variants, including Delta, making the quality of masks we wear more important than ever. While Omicron cases are declining and Oregon has announced plans to lift some general indoor mask mandates by March 31, community spread still remains very high. We must continue to wear masks in public indoor settings to protect ourselves and others. Importantly, mask mandates in health care settings will not be lifted on March 31.
The masks have started to arrive in Oregon, but not every pharmacy has received their delivery yet. Also, not every location of every pharmacy chain will receive masks.
While OHA does not have details on how the masks will be distributed to the public at individual sites, these are the pharmacy chains receiving masks through this federal initiative:
- Fred Meyer/Kroger
- Health Mart Independent Pharmacies
- Rite Aid
Look for signs near the pharmacy counter on how to get your N95 masks and for information on how to properly fit and care for them. Nationwide workforce shortages in health care settings are also affecting pharmacies. We ask that you try to avoid calling your local pharmacy to ask about these masks to ensure patients calling to fill prescriptions can be served.
Note there are currently no N95 masks made in child sizes, but some KN95 masks come in smaller sizes. Kid sizes are easily found in disposable and cloth masks, and any mask is better than no mask. Make sure any mask a child wears fits snugly around the nose and mouth with no gaps. Children under two should not wear any masks.
For more information on Oregon’s plans to lift some mask mandates, check out these frequently asked questions.