Biden says the US will provide high-quality masks to Americans for free

US President Joe Biden holds a KN95 mask as he provides an update on his administration’s response to the COVID-19 surge at the White House in Washington, D.C. January 13, 2022.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Thursday said the U.S. would distribute free high-quality masks to Americans as new infections caused by the micron variant of Covid-19 spread across the country.

Biden said the U.S. has more than tripled its national stockpile of high-protection N95 masks to ensure they are widely available to the general public. He said the masks are an important tool to help control the spread of omicrons.

“I know that for some Americans, a mask is not always available or convenient,” Biden said, speaking to the nation from the White House. “We will announce next week that we are making high-quality masks available to the American people for free.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT., reintroduced the law on Wednesday give away free N95 masks to every person in the US. Everyone will receive a parcel with three high protection masks. The Sanders bill has 50 Democratic co-sponsors in the House and Senate.

“As we face a rapidly expanding omicron variant, we must remember that not all face masks are the same,” Sanders said in a statement. “Congress should demand the mass production and distribution of N95 masks, one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the Covid virus.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Wednesday said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon update their mask-wearing guidelines to educate Americans about the different levels of protection different masks provide. However, Walensky said the CDC recommends that any mask is better than no mask.

“We urge all Americans to wear a suitable mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of Covid-19, and this recommendation will not change,” the CDC director said during the White House Covid update.

The CDC recommends that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in enclosed public places in areas with significant or high transmission of the virus. Virtually every county in the US now has high levels of transmission of the virus, according to the CDC. Omicron currently accounts for 98% of all sequenced Covid cases in the US, according to the CDC.

Australian researchers found that cloth masks were at least 50% effective at filtering out viral particles, while N95 and surgical masks were about 99% effective. That the study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Pathogens in September 2020.

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