The government is shipping ‘free masks’ this week, but N95s are currently hard to find in the Madison area

MADISON, Wis.– The first free N95s are arriving at pharmacies across the country, but the hot ticket items are still among the hardest to find locally.

News 3 Now called a dozen Walgreens and CVS locations in and around Madison. None currently have N95s in stock, but staff members at both chains received the same message from the federal government: more masks are on the way.

It’s part of a new plan to distribute three masks to every American, paid for by the Department of Health & Human Services. Last week, the Biden administration announced the department would begin shipping 400 million N95s from the Strategic National Stockpile to pharmacies and community health centers, with the program expected to be fully up and running by early February.

READ MORE: U.S. pharmacies are rolling out free N95 masks as free tests start arriving in the mail

The masks will be accompanied by flyers, encouraging Americans to “help slow the spread of COVID by protecting yourself and those around you.”

The flyer, which is written in both English and Spanish, adds that “up to three free masks are available to every person in the U.S.”

Hy-Vee was the only pharmacy with ties to Wisconsin that had already received mask shipments as of Jan. 24, but none of the chain’s Madison-area stores had them.

Spokesperson Christina Gayman told News 3 Now in an email, “Wisconsin Hy-Vee pharmacy locations have not yet received their mask allocations, but all 275 Hy-Vee pharmacy locations in our eight-state region should receive their allocations by mid-week.”

Several locally-owned stores are having better luck keeping N95’s in stock. Jefferson Fire & Safety in Middleton is selling 3M N95 masks for $1.50 each or $550 for a case of 440.

“It’s getting progressively harder for people to find masks, especially in bulk, so we thought it could be helpful to advertise our local business where people can access N95s hassle-free,” marketing manager Ally Geiger wrote in an email to News 3 Now.

As of Monday morning, Fitchburg Family Pharmacy also had N95s in stock, selling for $3 per mask.

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