Are Biden's free N95 masks too little, too late?

N95 masks
Posted at 3:23 PM, Jan 19, 2022

CLEVELAND — By late next week, you should be able to walk inside a community health center or pharmacy and get three N95 masks for free. But will this latest effort by the Biden Administration really move the needle in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic?

“It’s a nice gesture and a really nice first step,” said UH Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Amy Edwards. She had some concerns about the plan though. “The very next problem, of course, is that many N95s are meant to be disposable,” she said. The doctor also has concerns about a proper fit, since she says these masks are designed specifically for certain face shapes and sizes. Timing is also an issue for our area specifically.

“Here in Northeast Ohio, as we’re starting to show signs that we’re coming out of our surge, I don’t know how helpful it will be for us,” she said. But even if the shipments are too late to slow the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda pointed out, there’s no telling what comes next.

“I think one of the big unknowns is what’s coming behind Omicron,” she said. “And if, in fact, is Omicron giving enough protection to not have Delta surge again?” Skoda said she welcomes any help the federal government provides, be it free masks or free home test kits. And said masks protect against all airborne diseases, not just COVID-19. As for concerns about a proper fit, Skoda says even an N95 that isn’t perfectly fitted to your face is still an upgrade from an inferior cloth mask.

“You certainly wouldn’t wear it into a medical situation unless it was fit-tested but for everyday use, it would be fine, and it’s a great mask and it’s got a lot of protection,” she said.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Download the News 5 app for free to easily access local coronavirus coverage, and to receive timely and limited news alerts on major COVID-19 developments. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Vaccinating Ohio - Find the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccines, Ohio's phased vaccination process, a map of vaccination clinics around the state, and links to sign up for a vaccination appointment through Ohio's online portal.

See data visualizations showing the impact of coronavirus in Ohio, including county-by-county maps, charts showing the spread of the disease, and more.

Rebound Northeast Ohio News 5's initiative to help people through the financial impact of the coronavirus by offering one place to go for information on everything available to help and how to access it. We're providing resources on:

Getting Back to Work - Learn about the latest job openings, how to file for benefits and succeed in the job market.

Making Ends Meet - Find help on topics from rent to food to new belt-tightening techniques.

Managing the Stress - Feeling isolated or frustrated? Learn ways to connect with people virtually, get counseling or manage your stress.

Doing What's Right - Keep track of the way people are spending your tax dollars and treating your community.

We're Open! Northeast Ohio is place created by News 5 to open us up to new ways of thinking, new ways of gathering and new ways of supporting each other.

View a map of COVID-19 testing locations here.

Visit Ohio's Coronavirus website for the latest updates from the Ohio Department of Health.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.