Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will distribute more than 2 million high-quality face masks to communities in the state.
According to a Thursday announcement from Walz’s office, the state will provide around 2.1 million KN95 masks to go to public health agencies, schools, child care facilities and other groups.
The announcement comes as federal authorities are also urging people to use N95 and KN95 masks to prevent the spread of the more contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19, as they are of higher quality than the cloth masks that became popular at the start of the pandemic.
“Throughout the pandemic we have built a strong partnership with schools, local public health agencies, community groups, and others to make sure Minnesotans can access the tools they need to safely navigate COVID-19. That includes KN95 masks, which are especially important as we confront the highly contagious Omicron variant,” Walz said in a statement.
“Studies constantly show that high-quality masks like KN95s better protect wearers from COVID-19 and help slow the spread of the virus.”
The money will provide 650,000 masks for public health agencies to distribute to residents. Another 550,000 masks will go to schools. Child care facilities, tribal nations and clinics serving Medicaid recipients will also receive masks.
“High-quality masks help keep you and others safe – period. The Omicron variant means it is more important than ever that you wear a mask in public to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said in a statement.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its masking guidance to clarify that not all masks are equally as effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Cloth masks are least effective, though preferable to no mask, while surgical masks are more effective. Higher grade masks including KN95 and N95 masks are the best option, the CDC states.
President Joe Biden announced his plan to make 400 million free N95 masks available to the public last week. Those masks began arriving at pharmacies and grocery stores for distribution earlier this week, according to NPR.