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Covid-19 live updates: Free N95 masks now available at some U.S. pharmacies, with wider rollout expected soon


Free N95 masks are now available at some U.S. stores as part of the White House’s plan to hand out 400 million of them from the Strategic National Stockpile.

Midwest grocer Meijer said Monday that it has received some 3 million masks from the Health and Human Services Department and will hand out boxed sets of three N95 masks to customers who want them. Another Midwest supermarket chain, Hy-Vee, said in a tweet that its pharmacies are now offering free N95 masks as well.

Other major chains are expected to start handing out masks later this week. Walgreens spokesman Alex Brown said she expects the first stores to begin offering the masks on Friday. Three free N95 masks will be available for each adult, federal officials said.

In preparation for the rollout, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month provided its most explicit guidance to date on the protection afforded by different types of masks. Well-fitting N95 masks, it says, “offer the highest level of protection.”

Here’s what to know

  • The Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest in the United States, now requires its students to wear “well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire” at all times.
  • British media reported two more social gatherings involving Prime Minister Boris Johnson that supposedly took place in June 2020, when the country was under strict lockdown orders, including one to celebrate his birthday.
  • A UNICEF report released Sunday indicated that more than 616 million children around the world are still affected by covid-induced disruptions to their education, as school systems grapple with whether, and for how long, to close schools again amid omicron surges.

1:20 AM: Britain to remove testing requirement for fully vaccinated travelers

For fully vaccinated travelers, crossing into England will soon be a bit easier. British Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said Monday that people who meet that criteria will no longer have to take a coronavirus test within two days of entering the country, beginning at 4 a.m. on Feb. 11.

“Of course, we know that covid can spring surprises,” he said. “But everybody now should feel confident about booking holidays and business trips and visits to family and friends abroad.”

The country is also paring down testing requirements for travelers who are not fully vaccinated, scrapping a rule mandating that they take a test on the eighth day after arrival. However, they will still need to take a take a test before departing and a PCR test on or before their second day in England. Regardless of vaccination status, all arrivals will need to complete a passenger locator form, which Shapps said will be simplified, “making it quicker and easier to complete.”

1:17 AM: They had covid-19 once. Then, they got it again.

For the past two Christmases, Ana Siqueira has received the same unwanted gift: covid-19. And so has her husband.

The one-two punch they experienced underscores the coronavirus’s staying power and ability to crack through the body’s defenses.

The first time Siqueira got the virus, one of her sons was isolating with covid at home, and Siqueira hadn’t been vaccinated.

But the second time, Siqueira, 57, a children’s book author and Spanish teacher from Palm Harbor, Fla., had checked all the boxes. She wore a mask in public, practiced social distancing and was vaccinated and boosted, but thinks she caught covid anyway during a family trip to see her daughter in Seattle. Most of the family got swept up with infections, she said.

Although statistically rare, virus reinfections have been rising recently, leading some states to track them separately. Infectious-disease experts say getting covid more than once will lose its novelty for Americans. Time and the virus are both working against people’s defenses, they said.

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