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Distribution of N95 masks hits snag in our area; Will they still be needed soon?

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 5:21 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - The federal government has begun supplying stores across the country with N95 face masks and here in northeast Indiana The roll-out has become a challenge for some store managers leading many to wonder if the masks will be available when they need them most.

Huntington county health officer Dr. Matthew Pflieger encourages everyone to try to get ahold of some N95 masks.

“An N95 mask is the most ideal,” Pflieger said. “This is a droplet airborne virus and so an N95 provides a lot of protection.”

Doctors have known all along that they are the best kind when it comes to protecting against COVID-19. So why did it take nearly two years for the N95 mask to become available to the public?

“The problem in the very beginning was there was a huge shortage in 2020 so we were having trouble supplying that so we were relying on surgical masks for people or even doing a cloth mask,” Pflieger said.

Earlier this month, Indiana set records for the number of daily COVID-19 infections. Health officials say with such a large spike, it’s possible to soon go from a pandemic to an endemic. An endemic is a time when the virus is finally kept down to lower levels.

“There no question that the masks are kind of a mandate until we get to an endemic stage,” DeKalb County Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder said. “Those that have risks should definitely have an N95 mask in hand.”

Even though N95 masks are more available now, it’s still a challenge to get them on some store shelves.

“It’s in the interest of all of us to get them out as quickly as possible and I’m sure there are some people who are frustrated because they would feel better knowing they had the N95 mask,” Kroger Spokesperson Eric Halvorson said.

This week, leaders from Kroger announced plans to have N95 masks ready for shoppers Thursday. However, They realized Wednesday that would not happen. Store officials now hope to get N95 masks on shelves within days.

“We’re just waiting for an update from the team with the National Stockpile,” Halvorson said. “We have adapted and adjusted our distribution plan based off of what we’re hearing from Washington.”

For now, doctors in our area say we still should take COVID-19 very seriously.

We tried to reach Meijer store officials for an interview, but haven’t heard back. We do know, they have been stocking shelves with N95 masks, this week.

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