How to obtain free N95 masks at LAHS and COVID-19 tests from the government


Rohan Vaswani

Here’s how to obtain your free N95 masks and COVID-19 tests

Last week, the Biden administration launched a website allowing any American household to order four at-home COVID-19 tests, and announced it would make hundreds of millions of non-surgical N95 masks available for free at local pharmacies and community health centers, allocating three masks per person. This week, Los Altos High School started a program to distribute one N95 mask per week to students. Here’s how to obtain both.


COVID-19 tests can be ordered from the government through On the website, clicking the button labeled “Order Free At-Home Tests” will guide the user to a USPS website, where they can type in their name, email and shipping address to place the order. No credit card or payment information is required. The tests will ship within 7–12 days of order. Tests can also be ordered through a toll-free phone number — 1 (800) 232-0233 — for those unable to access the internet. The hotline is open daily from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. PST. 

The rapid antigen tests can be taken anywhere and should return results within 30 minutes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests testing after exposure to someone who tests positive, if attending group gatherings, or if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, and the Mountain View–Los Altos School District suggests weekly testing. Tests can be obtained through the government or locally from retailers and pharmacies, at testing sites and from Los Altos High School


Free, disposable N95 masks will roll out over the next few weeks in participating pharmacies, retailers and health centers. According to the White House, most retailers and pharmacies that participated in the government’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination — including Safeway, Costco, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and more — will distribute masks, as well as some local health centers. The first wave of masks will become available this week, with more becoming available by early February.

Masks are also available from LAHS. Starting this week, the school will distribute masks outside the library and in the lower quad during brunch and lunch. Each student will be able to obtain one N95 mask per week with their student ID card or ID number. 

The CDC, while not recommending N95 masks, has stated that government-approved N95s allow the highest level of protection and filtration, and the District currently recommends N95s over other masks. MVLA guidance, in accordance with county guidelines, requires indoor masking at all times and strongly suggests outdoor masking. If such a mask is worn, it should provide a good fit without any gaps along the edges or around the nose. The CDC recommends against double-masking with an N95 respirator.