New York to distribute 1 million free N95 masks Thursday amid hazardous smoke levels


New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that 1 million N95 masks will be distributed for free Thursday, as high-quality masks appeared to be in short supply at retailers Wednesday amid dangerously poor air quality due to smoke from Canadian wildfires.

In a tweet late Wednesday, Hochul said 400,000 N95 masks — the high-quality, tight-fitting masks that became ubiquitous during the pandemic — will be made available to New Yorkers from the state’s stockpile, while another 600,000 masks will come from federal sources.

Masks will be available at MTA facilities at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station, Fulton Center, Jamaica Station and the Main Concourse of the Port Authority Bus Terminal (South Wing); Denny Farrell Riverbank State Park in Harlem; and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.

“Every part of New York State has experienced unhealthy air quality in the last 24 hours as a result of Canadian wildfires, and our number one priority right now is keeping New Yorkers safe,” Hochul said in a separate statement. “Prolonged exposure to this harmful air will cause negative health impacts, which is why we’re making high-quality masks available at high-traffic areas across New York. I am encouraging everyone in impacted regions across the state to stay indoors and reduce your exposure to this harmful smoke until air quality improves.”

The wildfire smoke blanketing much of the Eastern U.S. is expected to last for several more days.

Hochul also encouraged New York schools to cancel outdoor activities and for New Yorkers to avoid strenuous activity, especially outdoors, and monitor their health in the coming days.

New York City had the worst air quality in the world Wednesday. According to the air-quality app Purple, New York City was registering particulate-matter readings of around 300 on Wednesday evening — hazardous for everyone.

Also see: Dangerous U.S. air from Canada’s wildfires: Where does your city rank in the EPA’s Air-Quality Index?

While there were anecdotal reports of N95 masks and air filters being hard to find at New York retailers, data from Inc.

showed sales were booming. According to Amazon’s “Movers & Shakers” list of top-selling items Wednesday evening, sales of some types of N95 masks shot up more than 1,000% in the past 24 hours. Air filters and humidifiers were also top sellers.

However, many of the N95 masks and air purifiers listed on Amazon aren’t available for delivery in New York until Saturday at the earliest. That appeared to be a regional supply issue; the same products were available next-day or in two days for a California address.


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