Voice of the consumer: Where, how to get free masks, tests to battle COVID
Our 11 News Call For Action team pens a weekly column for our news partner The Gazette. Previous columns can be found here.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - As the surge of COVID-19 cases continues, fueled by the omicron variant, I know a lot of you are looking for masks and at-home tests right now. I wanted to give you an update on where you can get them for free.
The state just rolled out a new program to provide free KN95 masks at different locations across Colorado. The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) is offering free KN95 masks and surgical-grade masks at public libraries right now. Eventually, they plan to expand the program to other community centers and locations.
I have been asking the state if they would be implementing a mask program that is similar to the at-home testing kit program, where the kits are sent directly to your house. They do plan on sending the KN95 masks directly to homes soon. They have not announced a date when that will start, but I will keep you updated.
“We are on a mission to help Coloradans keep themselves safe, and free medical grade masks are far more effective in preventing infection than cloth masks,” Governor Jared Polis said in a news release. “By making free medical grade masks available at libraries across our state and soon for home delivery, we are giving Coloradans a powerful tool to avoid infection.”
The state tells us they sent 40,000 KN95 and surgical masks to be distributed in El Paso County. The Pikes Peak Library District will be giving out masks when available. The Security Library District already gave out 1,000 masks within the first day. Some libraries in Pueblo County are also handing out masks. Please note, the masks are in very high demand, so don’t expect them to be in stock at every location. It may take time to restock. Make sure to check the state’s website for current distribution sites in our area, Covid19.Colorado.Gov/FreeMasks.
This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that you wear the most protective mask you can wear consistently. The CDC said on its website, “Loosely woven cloth products provide the least protection, layered finely woven products offer more protection, well-fitting disposable surgical masks and KN95s offer even more protection, and well-fitting NIOSH-approved respirators (including N95s) offer the highest level of protection.” Find more information on cdc.gov.
The state of Colorado is also still running the rapid at-home COVID-19 testing program. You can order free rapid COVID-19 tests that are shipped directly to your home at covidathometesting.colorado.gov. A lot of you have questions about when to use rapid antigen tests, or whether to get a PCR test at a drive-up community testing site.
“The caution of doing a home test is that if it’s a negative home test, it may mean that you don’t have COVID or it may mean you have COVID and it could be falsely negative, because the home test is not as sensitive,” Dr. Richard Vu told 11 News. “If you have symptoms, come in to be tested right away with the PCR or do a home test. If you do a home test and it’s positive, then you can end there. You have COVID.
“If you have symptoms and the home test is negative, then you cannot end there. You have to follow that up with another test, optimally a PCR test,” he added. You can find more advice from Dr. Vu at KKTV.com.
The federal government also launched a new website called COVIDTests.gov where you can order four free at-home tests per address. The United State Postal Service will typically ship the tests within a week or two. You can find more information about all of the programs at KKTV.com; just click on the red “Find It” tab.
Copyright 2022 KKTV. All rights reserved.