MILWAUKEE - Part of a federal program, thousands of N95 masks are available for free in the Milwaukee area, but they're going fast.
People can stop by any Hayat Pharmacy location now and pick up as many as five N95 masks per person. Other pharmacies have them now, too, while supplies last.
"It fits perfectly around your face, it gives you more protection," said Markwa Bakr, Infinity Pharmacy owner.
N95 masks are now widely recommended, but are not always widely available.
"It’s hard to find and they're also expensive, they are not cheap," Bakr said.
The new shipment of N95 masks at Infinity Pharmacy are free. They distribute three per person inside the store or by drive-thru.
"We’re happy to help the community and distribute them," said Bakr. "(Friday) we received 720 (masks). We're almost done with one third of them."
The free masks are party of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program – an effort to distribute 400 million masks throughout the country. Hayat Pharmacy received 20,000 on Thursday.
"We’ve given multiple thousands so far," Tamir Kaloti, Hayat Pharmacy president and co-owner, said. "These are actually very high-quality masks, N95 masks. To buy them over the counter costs probably $5 to $10 per mask."
Kaloti expects all of the free masks to be gone by Monday.
"We encourage people to come as soon as they can. They’re going by fast, we want everyone to have a chance to get them," Kaloti said.
Both Kaloti and Bakr said those who have received free N95 masks have been happy and excited. The pharmacists themselves are happy to see the demand.
"A lot of people, especially these days because with the new variant it’s highly contagious, so a lot of people are taking it seriously," said Bakr.
Pharmacists remind people to wear the masks properly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has instructions on its website.
Masks are also available at Meijer stores and certain Walgreens in Milwaukee. CVS expects to receive masks as well.