America's two largest grocery chains recently raised the price of a popular COVID-19 at-home rapid test as the highly infectious omicron variant spread. However, while one COVID-19 staple is becoming more costly, another is being handed out to grocery shoppers for free.
Around 400 million N95 masks are currently en route to supermarket pharmacies from coast to coast, according to the White House. The effort is part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, an initiative created to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines.
The list of partners includes Albertsons (and its brands like Acme, Jewel-Osco, Safeway, and Tom Thumb); Costco; Food Lion; H-E-B; Hy-Vee; Kroger (and its brands such as Fred Meyer, Harris Teeter, Mariano's, and Ralphs); Meijer; Publix; Sam's Club; Walmart; Wegmans; and Winn-Dixie. To view the complete list, click here.
Walmart told USA Today that the masks would be "available by the second week of February at the front of more than 5,100 Walmart stores and Sam's Clubs across the country." Meanwhile, Hy-Vee, Meijer, and other retailers are already distributing them.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says N95 masks "offer the highest level of protection" from COVID-19. As part of the initiative, shoppers can take up to three masks per person.
Walmart and Kroger raised the sticker price of BinaxNOW test kits earlier this month after an agreement with the Biden administration to sell the kits at cost expired.