TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Masking up with and N95 face covering is your best option to avoid the Omicron variant.

“We were using those cloth masks initially because there was supply chain issues and a shortage of the higher grade masks for healthcare workers,” said Dr .Davie Wein, the Chief of Emergency Medicine at Tampa General Hospital.

According to the latest issued updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, properly fitted N95 and KN95 masks offer more protection than cloth face coverings.

They said the added protection is especially important because the Omicron variant is more contagious.

“The purpose of an N95 mask, they’re really designed to filter out, as the name suggests, 95% of particulate matter—really small particles,” Dr. Wein explains.

President Biden’s administration announced a new program making 400 million N95 masks available at no cost to Americans. Pharmacies have begun receiving and distributing masks. Some are still waiting for shipments.

You can pick-up a maximum of three masks at the following locations when they become available:

  • CVS
  • Albertsons
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Most stores will have signage indicating mask availability.

For a list of other retail chains and pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, click here.