Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) announced on January 24 that the state has distributed more than 5.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) since the beginning of the year.

As part of the Evers Administration’s continued response to the coronavirus pandemic, 5.4 million N95/KN95 respirator masks have been distributed to over 130 different locations across Wisconsin since the start of January, including more than 3.35 million masks just last week. As part of these distribution efforts, more than 533,000 masks have been distributed to school districts across the state, including nearly 400,000 last week alone.

“Keeping Wisconsinites healthy and safe continues to be my top priority as the landscape of this pandemic continues to shift and evolve,” said Governor Evers. “In addition to getting vaccine shots in arms and expanding our COVID-19 testing efforts, ensuring that folks have access to high-quality masks and respirators is key to helping keep people safe and preventing the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring our kids continue learning in the classroom, our small businesses and main streets recover, and our workers to stay on the job.”

Recent guidance updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear the most protective mask or respirator available that fits well and that can be worn comfortably for long periods of time, if necessary. All masks and respirators provide some level of protection against the virus that causes COVID-19, but some masks and respirators may offer more protection than others.

“Wearing a well-fitting mask in public places is a critical tool to slow the spread of COVID-19, and it is important to remember that any mask is better than no mask,” said DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake. “To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, wear the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.”

“When wearing a mask or respirator, it should cover both your mouth and nose, fit snugly against your face, and have at least two layers of material. Your mask should also have a nose wire to help prevent respiratory droplets and aerosols from leaking in and out around the edges.”

To learn more about how to wear your mask, where masks should be worn, and the different types of masks and respirators, the public is encourage to visit, DHS COVID-19: Wear a Mask.

Millions of masks have been distributed to schools, community organizations, first responders, and local and tribal health departments (LTHDs) across Wisconsin from the DHS Medical Stockpile. The DHS stockpile is a cache of state-owned medical surge supplies and PPE, including gloves, gowns, coveralls, face masks, face shields, and N95 respirators.

Milwaukee County received a shipment of 575,000 N-95 masks over the January 22 weekend. The Office of Emergency Management distributed 175,000 masks to 10 local municipalities who requested supplies from the County (Cudahy, Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, Hales Corners, North Shore, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, West Allis).

“Thank you to Governor Evers and his administration for continuing to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and sending nearly 600,000 high-quality N-95 masks to Milwaukee County. We know that there is a demand for high-quality masks since the Omicron variant is much more contagious, and the N-95 masks provide the appropriate amount of protection from contracting the new variant or spreading it to others,” said Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. “This week, the Department of Health and Human Services is working to distribute the remainder of the N-95 masks to the County’s most vulnerable residents. The department and its affiliated community agency partners are working to get masks out to residents who need them the most. This effort builds on the support the County has provided to community agencies since the start of the pandemic.”

Since the onset of the pandemic DHHS has worked to distribute cleaning supplies and other PPE as available to assist in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus disease. The additional masks from the Evers Administration allow the department to make masks available for provider staff, community members, and community organizations. DHHS will distribute masks to residents who engage with County Services and its affiliated community agency partners like organizations serving older adults, Milwaukee County Senior Centers, and Meals on Wheels.

Wisconsinites can find N95 or KN95 masks for purchase from a number of reputable sellers. These masks are widely available and come in a variety of styles. The Biden Administration has also recently announced plans to make 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. Major pharmacy chains such as CVS and Walgreens plan to distribute free masks.