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Milwaukee has given away nearly 500,000 N95 masks, hopes more will be available later this week

On Saturday, the Milwaukee Health Department (MHD) began distributing 500,000 N95 masks it received from the state of Wisconsin. They didn't last long. By Tuesday afternoon, it had given away most if not all of the masks, WISN reports.

More masks should be on the way: The city hopes to receive another 500,000 masks from the state by the end of the week, although it's unclear exactly when they'll arrive. "MHD appreciates the public’s patience as it works to meet public demand and restock N95 masks at its distribution locations throughout the community," the department wrote on its website.

The masks were distributed at three health centers as well as 13 public libraries. Individual Milwaukee County residents were eligible for packages of five masks, couples for packages of 10 masks, and families for packages of 20 masks.

Demand for the masks was apparently higher than MHD has anticipated. On Saturday, officials from the department were saying they didn't expect to run out. ""Five hundred thousand masks are a lot of masks," one official assured Fox 6.

But the continued surge of Covid-19 in Wisconsin, which set several records for new confirmed cases over the last week, and stronger public health messaging about the importance of higher quality masks have created an increased demand for N95 masks. Because the omicron variant is so much more contagious than previous variants of Covid-19, "cloth masks are not going to cut it with omicron," one researcher of infectious disease at Virginia Tech explained to NPR.

N95 masks can be purchased in some stores and online.

Meanwhile, public health officials have continued to stress the necessity of vaccines, which have been proven to drastically reduce serious illness, hospitalization and death as a result of Covid-19.

Following FDA and CDC approval, the MHD this week expanded administration of the booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines at all its clinics. The new guidelines allow for a booster dose to be administered to kids 12-15. It also shortens the time between the completion of a primary dose of the vaccine and a booster to five months or more, and allows for a third primary dose of the vaccine for some immunocompromised children between 5 and 11.

Courtesy Milwaukee Health Department

Vaccines and boosters are free and widely available. For more information on Covid-19 vaccines, you can visit Radio Milwaukee’s vaccine resource guide.