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First wave of free N95 masks available in Northeast Ohio come with a warning

N95 masks
Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 14:36:14-05

CLEVELAND — The Meijer in Avon is among the first retailers locally to receive a shipment of N95 masks.

The Biden administration is deploying 400 million nationwide to help slow the spread of the omicron variant.

Each person has access to three, but before you head out to grab them, Dr. Shanina Knighton has a warning.

"I am concerned about safety for the general public," said Knighton.

Knighton, an infection preventionist at Case Western Reserve University, told News 5 that she worries some people may not have the breathing capacity to wear an N95 mask, and if they're not properly fitted overall protection from the mask decreases.

"If you have a smaller face or a smaller nose or a smaller mouth, that mask may not give you the seal that you're thinking that it should," said Knighton.

Over at Metro Hospital, Dr. David Margolius said the distribution of N95 masks won't make a huge difference in the transmission of the virus, but it will add a layer of protection for people in crowded public places like airplanes and the West Side Market.

"What's happening in Cleveland is really good news. The cases are coming down so quickly, and so for many folks, this N95 mask rollout doesn't need to apply to you because if you're vaccinated, as the count goes low, you can rest assured we're looking for a good next few months," said Margolius.

Knighton said people should rotate the three N95 masks they receive to help them last longer and they should be reserved for those high-risk environments.

The N95 mask program is expected to be fully up and running nationwide by early next month.