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Looking for free N95 masks? Here's where to find them

The Meijer store in Avon was one of the first to receive and distribute N95 masks from the federal stockpile in Northeast Ohio. They ran out Thursday. [Stephanie Czekalinski / Ideastream Public Media]
Shoppers cross a crosswalk outside a Meijer store in Avon, Ohio.

N95 face masks from the U.S. government stockpile have begun to be distributed at no charge across Northeast Ohio.

But for Northeast Ohio consumers there is no easy way to know which pharmacies or stores have received masks or whether they are still available.

The Biden administration, last week, announced plans to send 400 million masks for distribution to the public through pharmacies and community health centers.

N95 masks should now be available at all Meijer and Kroger stores and at some Walgreens locations across the state, according to an Ohio Department of Health spokesperson. CVS is also participating in the distribution, but customers should check with stores for availability. 

This effort is part of the federal government’s program of N95 mask distribution announced Jan. 19

Shipments have arrived at CVS, Meijer and Walgreens pharmacies last week, according to company spokespeople and from in-store visits.

On Friday, CVS said masks would be available on a “rolling basis” as additional supply becomes available.

“Masks are limited to three per person, while supplies last, and signs are posted to indicate N95 mask availability,” a pharmacy spokesperson wrote in an email.

A Walgreens spokesperson said that while some stores had received the masks, the distribution effort remains “a rolling launch over the coming days and weeks.”

According to the Walgreens program store locator, which tracks where shipments have been received, only one location in the Cleveland area — 11401 Union Ave. — has received masks.

A Friday visit to the Meijer store on on Nagel Road in Avon confirmed that the store had received masks, but a store employee said they ran out Thursday evening. Store personnel did not know when or if they would get more.

Meijer did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

DrugMart is expecting shipments in the coming days and weeks, a spokesperson said. 

The masks are being made available through the federal retail pharmacy program – which includes major grocery stores and pharmacy chains, NPR reportedlast week. 

The distribution comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance to emphasize N95 masks as the highly transmissible omicron variant fueled a wave of COVID-19 infections.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.