Grassley says free masks, COVID tests may be too late

WASHINGTON — The federal government plans to distribute 400 million free face masks, in addition to millions more COVID-19 test kits, ideas Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says are good but maybe too little, too late.

The N-95 masks are said to offer better protection than cloth coverings and they’ll be passed out, three per adult, at pharmacies and health centers. Grassley says that will likely take a few weeks.

“Presumably, unless there’s a new variant of the virus,” Grassley says, “I would say those masks are going to get out at a point where it’s not going to do much good.” The government website to order the free COVID test kits crashed on Tuesday after being overloaded by heavy demand.

“And then there’s a whole bunch of problems with getting the tests out,” Grassley says, “because people that live in apartments have the same address and things of that nature.” The test kits will be sent out in packages of four tests each, one package per household. Grassley says the logistics of labeling, mailing out, and delivering millions of test kits over the next few weeks presents its own set of problems.

“So, I hope that they’re able to overcome them so the tests can get out,” Grassley says, “even though we may be beyond this Omicron phase that we’re in now.” To request a test kit, sign up at the website The N-95 masks are coming from the Strategic National Stockpile and the White House says this will be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in the nation’s history.

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