MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) today announced the state has distributed more than 5.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) since the beginning of the year. As part of the Evers Administration’s continued response to the coronavirus pandemic, 5.4 million N95/KN95 respirator masks have been distributed to over 130 different locations across Wisconsin since the start of January, including more than 3.35 million masks just last week. As part of these distribution efforts, more than 533,000 masks have been distributed to school districts across the state, including nearly 400,000 last week alone.
“Keeping Wisconsinites healthy and safe continues to be my top priority as the landscape of this pandemic continues to shift and evolve,” said Gov. Evers. “In addition to getting vaccine shots in arms and expanding our COVID-19 testing efforts, ensuring that folks have access to high-quality masks and respirators is key to helping keep people safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring our kids continue learning in the classroom, our small businesses and main streets recover, and our workers to stay on the job.”
Recent guidance updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear the most protective mask or respirator available that fits well and that can be worn comfortably for long periods of time, if necessary. All masks and respirators provide some level of protection against the virus that causes COVID-19, but some masks and respirators may offer more protection than others.
“Wearing a well-fitting mask in public places is a critical tool to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.”
Millions of masks have been distributed to schools, community organizations, first responders, and local and tribal health departments (LTHDs) across Wisconsin from the DHS Medical Stockpile. The DHS stockpile is a cache of state-owned medical surge supplies and PPE, including gloves, gowns, coveralls, face masks, face shields, and N95 respirators. Healthcare providers, LTHDs, and schools interested in requesting masks from the stockpile can find instructions for submission on the DHS COVID-19: Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) page. Requests should be submitted after all other options are exhausted.
Wisconsinites can find N95 or KN95 masks for purchase from a number of reputable sellers. These masks are widely available and come in a variety of styles. The Biden Administration has also recently announced plans to make 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. Major pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens will distribute free masks, starting as early as this week.
When wearing a mask or respirator, it should cover both your mouth and nose, fit snugly against your face, and have at least two layers of material. Your mask should also have a nose wire to help prevent respiratory droplets and aerosols from leaking in and out around the edges. To learn more about how to wear your mask, where masks should be worn, and the different types of masks and respirators, visit the DHS COVID-19: Wear a Mask page.
For up-to-date information about Wisconsin’s COVID-19 response, visit the DHS COVID-19 webpage. We encourage you to follow @DHSWI on Facebook, Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram for more information on COVID-19.