URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - The University of Illinois is handing out free N95 masks to the campus community before the start of the spring semester. 

The News-Gazette reports the school recommends faculty, students and staff have on an N95, KN95 or level 3 surgical mask as an extra layer of protection during the omicron variant surge of the virus. U of I officials purchased 50,000 N95 masks, which carried a $35,000 cost, from Medline in Northfield. 

One mask is allotted to every student and faculty and staff member. Student distribution started Thursday. 

Mask distribution includes the following details: 

  • School dorm residents and full-time employees received masks in mailboxes 
  • Students living in private certified housing can go to their front desk to get a mask 
  • Veterinary students can find a mask at the Ved Med building 
  • Other students can get N95 masks from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at U of I cultural centers, the front registers and second-floor textbook pickup of the Illini Union Bookstore, the Turner Student Services Building and the union's Quad Shop. 
  • Masks will soon be available at the Sidney Lu Mechanical Engineering Starbucks (after Jan. 17), the Union Starbucks (starting Jan. 18, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.), and Jitters Cafe at the College of Law (after Jan. 24). 

Students and employees will not face a penalty if they don't wear an upgraded mask, as the guidance is a recommendation. 

People don't need to wear an upgraded mask in every situation, said Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Deputy Administrator Awais Vaid. 

“Individuals should evaluate their risk and choose a mask appropriately,” she said. “For example, for those who are immunocompromised or who are around people who are immunocompromised, a N95, KN95 or a Level 3 surgical mask is a better option.”

Click here for more information from the newspaper about proper use of N95s and when they can be reused. 

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