Free “high-quality masks” will soon be available as President Joe Biden announced actions to combat unprecedented surges of Covid-19 deaths and hospitalizations.

Recent figures from the Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 151,000 hospitalizations nationwide as of Wednesday. In the past week alone, the US averaged over 747,260 new Covid-19 daily cases according to John Hopkins University data. 

The President noted how the pandemic has exacerbated inequities in access to protection and care among Americans. 

“A mask is not always affordable or convenient to get," Biden said. 

The administration will announce more details about how the free masks will be distributed next week. 

Many experts say that cloth and surgical masks do not offer the same protections against viral transmission as N95 and KN95 masks. However, the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not changed masking guidance.  

According to the CDC's current guidance, a mask should be well fitted, have two layers of breathable fabric and have a wire bridge around the nose. It is noted in the guidance that N95 masks should be prioritized for healthcare workers.

Additionally, the Biden administration announced plans to purchase an additional 500 million Covid-19 tests on top of the 500 million tests previously announced. 

At a local level, Chula Vista Emergency Services Manager Marlon King warned residents that he was “not coming with good news” during a Jan.11 city council meeting. The city’s most recent figures show the number of positive Covid-19 cases has exponentially increased and spiked to 29,536 new cases and 27 deaths as of Jan.1. 

The city reported "record-high" Covid-19 new case rates in the weekend of Jan.7, which illustrated 19,000 new cases on Friday, a total of 17,000 new cases on Saturday, and 12,000 on Sunday. 

With more positive cases, there are more hospitalizations. As of Jan.4, county data shows a 137 percent increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations and a 72 percent increase in intensive care unit patients over the last 30 days 

“This is unprecedented and these numbers will indeed increase, which will lead to more hospitalizations and community spread. That is a direction we do not want to be heading,” King said. 

King urged community members to "recommit to public health safety measures" to prevent further viral transmission.

Testing and vaccines are available in Chula Vista at several sites listed on the city's webpage.

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