By Kiley Petracek
On Jan. 19, the Biden administration announced the first broad distribution of N-95 masks were to be released on Jan. 20 to the public for free pickup.
Recently, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised N-95 masks to replace your cloth or disposable masks in order to maximize protection against COVID-19, including the new variant, Omicron.
The American-made masks are certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to filter 95% of particles in the air due to the denser network of fibers.
The N-95 masks can soon be found in most healthcare centers or pharmacies that participated in the free vaccination program. This includes known chains such as Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, Sam’s Club, and even some Publix’s. The CVS closest to UT’s campus, located at 220 E Madison St North, has not received them yet.
According to a CVS representative, the masks are coming soon to [their] store locations.
On the other hand, according to a Walgreens spokeswoman, N-95’s were intended to be available on Jan. 28 and “will continue on a rolling basis in the days and weeks following.” It’s anticipated that by mid-February, all locations nationally should be offering the masks. The Walgreens closest in proximity to UT is located at 315 W Platt St.
In an attempt to distribute them as evenly as possible, only three masks are available per person as of now. If you are in need of more than three, N-95’s can be found on platforms such as Project N-95, Industrial Safety Products, Ace Hardware, and Amazon.
Although Omicron is the most recent modification of the virus and the CDC does not have much knowledge on this variation, the severity of symptoms is difficult to gauge.
It comes back to whether or not the patient is vaccinated and has other underlying health factors such as age, history, and prior infection. What is known about the variant is that it’s spreading more rapidly than the initial COVID-19 virus.
While disposable masks may be cheaper when buying a surplus, some University of Tampa (UT) students prefer the protection provided by N-95 masks while on campus.
First year student, Alanys Lopez, began using the masks when arriving back to Florida after break.
According to Lopez, she saw cases were getting worse so [she] got these because they’re what was recommended.
According to usafacts.org, the seven day average of COVID-19 cases in Hillsborough County is currently at 1,932 new cases a week.
Not only are the N-95’s more protective, but according to Lopez, “they’re a bit more durable than the other paper ones.”
The masks being used are part of the Strategic National Stockpile created for emergency use according to the Wall Street Journal. There are only adult sizes being supplied for the initial release.
Alongside the distribution of N-95 masks, the Biden administration released an effort to get at-home COVID tests more effectively. Each home is now qualified to receive four free tests.
UT continues to reinforce the Spartan Shield Safety Plan by encouraging students to remain safe by wearing a mask and doing daily COVID-19 self-assessments.
Photo Courtesy of WFLA