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Through late December and early January, Coloradans flooded local pharmacies to buy at-home COVID-19 tests and face masks amid a surge of cases caused by the Omicron variant.
In response, both the state and federal governments ramped up programs for people to get free tests and surgical-grade masks. Governor Jared Polis announced on January 18 that Colorado would provide more than one million free KN95 and surgical-grade masks for residents to pick up at public libraries, YMCAs, fire stations, and other community and recreation centers. The following day, the Biden administration also said it would send 400 million N95 masks to pharmacies and community health centers across the United States to hand out for free. Both groups were also already operating programs that allow people to order free at-home COVID-19 tests.
That's only $1 per issue!
The influx of masks comes as Colorado has seen a downward trend in daily COVID-19 cases, leading Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to announce that the city’s indoor mask order for businesses and public spaces will expire on Thursday. But face coverings are still required at Denver schools and day care centers, as well as for anyone over the age of two traveling on public transportation, per federal law. And the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is still encouraging folks to mask up to help stop the spread of the Omicron strain or other potential variants of concern in the future.
Medical officials are also recommending the KN95 and N95 face coverings, as opposed to cloth masks, as the best way to keep from catching the highly transmissible Omicron variant.“This is still a public health emergency and will remain so as long as there are spikes, surges, and variants that threaten to overwhelm health care systems,” Hancock said at a press conference on Monday, January 31.
To protect yourself and others, here’s where you can claim your free N95 and KN95 face masks, as well as at-home COVID-19 tests around Denver.
Where to Get Free N95, KN95 and Surgical-Grade Masks
CDPHE and the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM) are currently distributing KN95 and surgical-grade masks to more than 100 locations across the state. Residents can pick up a limit of five free masks per household per month, until supplies last. It is unknown at this time how long the state will be providing the free masks or if the state will replenish the supply, according to the CDPHE.
Visit the state’s website for the full list, which gets updated when new locations have received masks to distribute. Coloradans are also encouraged to call the community centers in advance to ensure they have masks in stock.
- Eloise May Library — 1471 S. Parker Road (303-542-7279)
- Center for Colorado Women’s History — 1200 Broadway (303-620-4933)
- Colorado State Services Building — 1525 Sherman St. (303-866-4357; 8 a.m.–2 p.m.; no parking available)
- Denver Indian Center, Inc. — 4407 Morrison Road (303-936-2688)
- Haven of Hope — 1101 W. Seventh Ave. (303-607-0855)
- History Colorado Center — 1200 N. Broadway (303-447-8679)
- Lifespan Local — 4407 Morrison Road (720-427-4283)
- Rangeview Library District — 7611 Hilltop Circle (303-428-3576)
- Sheridan Library — 3425 W. Oxford Ave. (303-542-7279)
- Vuela for Health — 3532 N. Franklin St., Suite J (1-888-747-2583)
Three free N95 masks per adult are also available to be picked up at select local pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, Kroger, and more, courtesy of the Biden administration. (A full list of nationwide participating retail pharmacies can be found here.)
Several local pharmacies are expected to begin receiving shipments as soon as later this week. The Walgreens at 3555 North Colorado Boulevard and 300 South Federal Boulevard in Denver already have masks in stock (check online for an updated list of participating Walgreens locations as they receive shipments), but as supplies continue to roll in throughout February, it’s still encouraged to verify whether masks are in stock by checking online or calling participating retail pharmacies beforehand.
Where to Get Free At-Home Rapid COVID-19 Tests:
Every household is eligible to order four free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government online. Tests will be delivered to your home, typically within seven to 12 business days.
Free rapid over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for individuals, as well as organizations, are also available to order from the state here.
Colorado students at participating K–12 schools can also receive free rapid testing through the new “test-to-stay” program, in addition to the current tests already being provided to schools statewide for weekly screenings of students and staff. The test-to-stay program, which was announced Tuesday, aims to tackle recent hurdles with staffing shortages and absences by allowing students and teachers who have been exposed to COVID to remain in the classroom, so long as they continue to test negative. More than two dozen Denver schools are currently listed as offering the test-to-stay option. Find an updated map of participating schools here.
Coloradans can also still make an appointment for a free COVID-19 test at more than 150 of the state’s drive-up community testing sites.