North Olympic Peninsula county departments of emergency management are awaiting information on how to order N95 and KN95 masks.
The Biden administration has announced that the federal government will distribute about 400 million N95 masks to the public as part of the ongoing fight against the highly contagious omicron variant and other variants of the COVID-19 virus. They will be provided free to the public.
Both Clallam and Jefferson County are waiting on Washington state government for more information.
“We have been told by the state that this is something that is coming down the pike for us, but we have not been given the opportunity to order the masks,” said Anne Chastain, Clallam County Department of Emergency Management coordinator.
“The state is in the process of ordering a bunch of masks and they say they will have enough, that we can order up to the number of citizens we have. We’re just waiting to hear what the process is,” she said on Wednesday.
Willie Bence, Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management director, also said he is awaiting information.
“We have a bunch of folks who are anxious to get their hands on those masks,” he said.
“It’s one of those situations where the governor makes a big announcement and then details start trickling in slowly but surely down to low-level folks like me,” Bence added.
The masks will come from the national stockpile and at least three per person will be available, according to CNN.
N95 and KN95 masks provide the best filtration of any of the medical masks and are highly recommended for all as the U.S. begins to peak in the spread of the omicron variant, according to Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“They reduce the number of particles from the environment that you inhale, so they do provide better protection for you when compared to a cloth mask or surgical mask,” Berry said.
“Key to that protection is that it fits well and that you wear it,” she added.
“So what I recommend is to try out a couple of different kinds of masks to the extent that you can and try and make sure that they are comfortable before you take them to work for a shift,” she said.
“If it’s really uncomfortable or it doesn’t fit on your face well, it’s not providing you as good of protection,” Berry said.
N95 and KN95 masks already are being provided to medical care workers in area hospitals along with other personal protective equipment, she said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].