Where to find free N95 masks in Washington

In the coming days, Washingtonians will have access to free N95 masks.

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced that the government would provide 400 million N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile to pharmacies and community health centers across the country, and Washington should be receiving its shipment soon. 

The Washington Department of Health did not have a specific date, but said "in the coming days."

As cases of COVID-19’s omicron variant continue to surge in parts of the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending N95 masks as a protective measure against the highly contagious virus. 

According to the CDC, the mask is called an N95 because it is the U.S. standard that requires masks to be able to filter out at least 95% of very small particles — including droplets from the coronavirus. 

Where to find free N95 masks

You should be able to access free masks at a community health center. 

You can also find them at the following retailers:

  • Albertsons Companies (including Safeway)
  • Costco Wholesale
  • CVS Pharmacy
  • Managed Health Care Associates (retail and long-term care pharmacies)
  • Rite Aid
  • The Kroger Co. (including Fred Meyer and QFC)
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart (including Sam’s Club)

Get breaking news alerts in the FREE FOX 13 Seattle app. Download for Apple iOS or Android. And sign up for BREAKING NEWS emails delivered straight to your inbox.

Difference between KN95 and N95 masks

With such similar-sounding names, it can be confusing to understand the difference between N95 and KN95 masks

Earlier this month, the CDC updated its masking guidelines stating respirators such as N95 and KN95 "offer the highest level of protection". The CDC also clarified that people can choose these type masks, removing concerns related to supply shortages for N95s.

N95 or KN95 masks are more widely available now than at any other time during the pandemic, though they are often more costly than less-protective surgical masks or cloth masks. 

In short, N95 masks are the U.S. standards for respirator masks, while KN95 masks are the Chinese standards for masks.

But, according to the CDC, about 60% of KN95 respirators the National Institute for Occupational Safety (NIOSH) evaluated during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 did not meet the requirements that they intended to meet.

N95 masks are regulated and approved by NIOSH, but the agency was informed that many legitimate manufacturers in China have been counterfeited. In such cases, NIOSH has no way of verifying which products are counterfeit and which are authentic.

In that case, it’s can difficult to know which KN95s are fakes. 

FOX TV Digital Team contributed to this report.

Stay connected with FOX 13 News on all platforms:
DOWNLOAD: FOX 13 News and Weather Apps
WATCH: FOX 13 News Live
SUBSCRIBE: FOX 13 on YouTube
DAILY BRIEF: Sign Up For Our Newsletter
FOLLOW: Facebook Twitter Instagram