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Here’s how you can get free KN95s and surgical masks in Denver starting this week

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Posted at 10:36 AM, Jan 24, 2022

DENVER – If you’re looking for a better mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 but can’t afford one right now, there are dozens of locations where you can pick some up here in the Mile High City.

City officials announced Monday Denverites will be able to pick up these higher-quality masks free of charge at any of city’s 30 recreation centers, except for La Alma (because it is currently closed), starting this Monday while supplies last.

The City of Denver has received 100,000 masks from the state after Gov. Polis announced last week they would be available to the general public. Masks will be available during regular business hours and will be limited to five masks per person per month.

Masks will not be available for pick up at any Denver library locations or fire stations, city officials said in a news release.

“While vaccination greatly reduces the chances of severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, masks are an important tool to limit the spread of the virus in our community,” said a spokesperson with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE).

A recent study found that higher-quality, tight-fitting masks like N95s and KN95s filtered more than 50% of exhaled aerosols that can build up indoors and be inhaled by other people, while masks that had an improper fit – like cloth masks – filtered about 10% of exhaled aerosols.

KN95s masks are the Chinese equivalent to N95 masks in the U.S. and will offer comparable protection to the wearer, meaning they will block at least 95% of airborne particles that carry SARS-CoV-2, the novel virus which causes COVID-19. A well-fitted KN95 mask should sit snugly against the sides of your face with no gaps around the nose and mouth.

Health experts recommend people throw away their KN95s after one use if working in settings where the risk of contracting COVID-19 is high, such as health care facilities and schools. For others who may not be in frequent contact with someone infected with the virus or who may use them for only brief periods of time, such as when going on a grocery run, they say you can continue wearing them for up to a week, so long as it's not soiled, damaged or no longer seals well around your nose and mouth.

When it comes to caring for your KN95 mask, health experts recommend putting them in rotation after each use — but no more than a week — so you don't use the same mask two times in a row. Storing them in a safe, clean place, such as a paper bag, will allow the mask to dry out and render any potentially infectious viral particles ineffective.

They also advise thoroughly washing your hands for at least 20 seconds after taking off a mask and recommend removing them from the ear loops or elastic bands to avoid touching contaminated areas of the mask.

Community transmission remains high for the city and county of Denver. As of Jan. 17, the one-week incident rate for Denver was 1,293.3 cases per 100,000 people. The one-week positivity rate across the city was 24.1% - nearly 5 times of what is recommended by federal, state and local public health officials to curb spread of the virus.

The city’s “vax or mask” mandate in indoor public settings is in effect for anyone 2 years or older until at least Feb. 3.