Meijer plans to offer free N95 face masks to customers as part of a program announced last week by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS).
Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Meijer said Monday that it will provide N95 masks at no charge to shoppers who need them as they enter its stores across the Midwest. The supercenter retailer reported that it has received about 3 million N95 masks.
In recently updated guidance, the CDC recommended N95 respirators as the best mask protection available to consumers.
Under the HHS program, customers can take up to three N95 masks. Meijer said its masks will be in boxes on a table near the Meijer greeter stand of stores’ grocery entrances, and the greeters — who will be wearing gloves — will stack the masks in piles of three for shoppers to take as they go.
Meijer operates more than 258 supercenters and grocery stores in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.
Last week, the Biden administration unveiled plans to distribute 400 million free N95 masks from the Strategic National Stockpile to adults through thousands of pharmacies, community health centers and other locations that participate in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.
The N95 respirators are considered the highest-quality masks available to consumers for COVID-19 protection — including the Omicron variant — and filter at least 95% of particles in the air, as long as there’s a proper fit and the masks are approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recently updated its face mask guidance.
Walmart, The Kroger Co., CVS Health and Walgreens also have said they plan to distribute the free N95 masks to customers through their pharmacy locations under the program.
"As part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, Kroger Health is incredibly proud to be part of the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history and continue our partnership with the Biden Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to reduce the spread of the aggressive Omicron variant in the communities we serve,” Marc Watkins, Kroger’s chief medical officer, said in a statement on Monday. “Wearing a mask and getting vaccinated continue to be the top defense tools in our nation’s fight against COVID-19. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the free non-surgical N95 masks and make an appointment today to get vaccinated or boosted."
Meijer noted that its participation in HHS’ free N95 mask program is part of its ongoing efforts to help its customers and employees protect themselves against COVID-19. In November, for example, the retailer began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds at all of its pharmacies. The company also continues to provide Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, boosters and third doses for adults, teens and/or children. To date, its pharmacies have administered more than 2.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.
*Editor's Note: Article updated with comment from Kroger.