Here’s Where to Find a KN95 Mask in Chicago, and W...

Here’s Where to Find a KN95 Mask in Chicago, and Why You Need One

Cloth masks alone will no longer fulfill DePaul’s updated mask guidance, which calls for a medical-grade KN95 mask or a layered cloth and surgical mask… except KN95s are hard to come by, and can be expensive. Here’s where you can find them: on campus and off.

Since the pandemic started in March 2020, we’ve had an evolution of face covering guidance: from wearing makeshift masks made from t-shirts (remember that?), to multi-layer fabric masks, to surgical masks, to layered cloth and surgical masks.

Now, the CDC and other organizations, including DePaul, have widely been recommending the use of medical-grade KN95 and N95 masks. On Thursday, President Esteban, Provost Ghanem and VP Sidler released a message to the larger DePaul community indicating that wearing fabric masks alone wouldn’t be enough to abide by the university’s mask policies. Instead, in order to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the classroom and workplace, KN95 or N95 masks should be the go-to, with a layered fabric and surgical mask combination also being acceptable.

Download a Lincoln Park campus map here and a Loop campus map here with locations where you can pick up a KN95 mask. 

What’s the difference? 

For one, the fit. KN95 and N95 masks are much more closely fit to the wearer’s face, allowing for less particulate matter to enter in gaps from the bridge of the nose or side of the face, for example. The close fit of these medical-grade masks cuts down the potential for transmission, a fact that you might already know about because of charts like these circulating on social media:

Where can I find them on campus? 

In the message sent Thursday to the community, DePaul indicated that KN95 and N95 masks would be made available at a variety of locations across campus, primarily in lobbies and at Public Safety desks. This is a practice that DePaul has implemented in past quarters with surgical masks, which were made available to students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus if one had forgotten their mask or didn’t have access to one.

“Everyone is expected to provide their own mask, however KN95 masks will be available at a limited number of first-floor desk areas near building entrances. It is also acceptable to wear a cloth mask layered over a surgical one,” the policy reads.

In an email to 14 East, DePaul spokesperson Russell Dorn confirmed that the university had ordered 100,000 masks that recently arrived, and that the KN95 masks will be in place at the announced locations before in-person classes start on Tuesday.

Loop Campus locations

In the Loop campus, students can get KN95 masks at the Public Safety desks of most downtown buildings with classes, including the lobbies of the CDM Center, the Daley Building (both the 14 E. Jackson and State Street entrances), the DePaul Center and the Lewis Center.

Download a map of Loop campus KN95 mask locations here.

Lincoln Park Campus locations 

In Lincoln Park, KN95 masks are available across campus. This includes the Public Safety desk in the lobby of the Holtschneider Performance Center next to the School of Music, the Parking Services Office in the Schmitt Academic Center in Room 177 (in the walkway between Kenmore Ave. and the Quad), in the DePaul Welcome Center lobby, and in the lobby of the Stu.

Download a map of Lincoln Park campus KN95 mask locations here.

Where can I get masks off campus? 

On Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health announced that the city purchased 1.5 million KN95 masks for distribution to residents and community organizations. Each alderperson received 20,000 masks for distribution to their ward residents, but masks have been a hot commodity, and some ward offices have run out of their mask stock entirely.

While some wards aren’t requiring any proof of residency to obtain masks, most are limiting mask distribution to just their residents. In order to find out who your alderperson is and where their office is located, you can use this tool from the City of Chicago. (Not every ward provided details about where to obtain KN95 masks, either publicly or in a statement back to 14 East upon request. If you're a resident of a ward not listed below, the best bet is to contact your alderperson, whose information is available in the tool linked above.)

In the 43rd Ward, represented by Ald. Michele Smith, which is almost all of Lincoln Park and parts of Gold Coast, residents, visitors or students can stop by the ward office at 2523 N. Halsted between 9-5, Monday through Friday (save for this Monday, January 17, in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day) to obtain up to five KN95 masks per person.

In the 2nd Ward, represented by Ald. Brian Hopkins, which borders parts of Lincoln Park, Old Town and other stretches of the Near North Side, residents can obtain masks by calling or emailing the ward office.

“The masks are being distributed from [the] 2nd Ward service office at 1400 N. Ashland. Constituents are encouraged to call 312-643-2299 ahead of time,” the office wrote in an email to 14 East. “At this time we are concentrating on getting this allotment out to our 2nd Ward constituency. If needed in the future [we] will work on acquiring additional masks.”

In the 44th Ward, represented by Ald. Tom Tunney, which spans Lakeview, Wrigleyville, and Boystown, residents “can show their ID at our ward office to pick up one mask for each person in their household,” per an email sent to 14 East.

In the 32nd Ward, represented by Ald. Scott Waguespack, which spans Lakeview, Roscoe Village, parts of Logan Square, Bucktown and Wicker Park, residents can visit the office at 2657 N. Clybourn between 9am - 6pm, Monday through Friday.

“Currently, we're getting so many calls about it, that we're giving 2 per person in the household,” Elizabeth Gomez, Director of Business Assistance and Community Outreach, wrote in an email to 14 East on Wednesday. “That may change after this initial rush of people, but we wanted to make sure everyone who wants one gets a few.”

In the 1st Ward, represented by Ald. Daniel La Spata, and which stretches from Palmer Square to Ukrainian Village and West Town, residents can pick up a box of masks per household (with 25 masks per box) from the ward office at 1958 N Milwaukee Ave after confirming their residency by providing their name and address, according to an email to 14 East.

In the 46th Ward, represented by Ald. James Cappleman, and which spans Buena Park and Uptown, KN95 masks will be available at the ward office at 4544 N. Broadway during their office hours between 9-5 on Monday through Friday, according to an email from the ward office to 14 East.

In the 47th Ward, represented by Ald. Matthew Martin, and which spans North Center and Ravenswood, residents can contact the office at to inquire about picking up masks, as the team is currently working remotely until January 24, according to the office.

In the 33rd Ward, represented by Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez, which spans parts of Albany Park, Horner Park, Irving Park and Avondale, residents can pick up KN95 masks from the ward office at 3001 W Irving Park.

Ward staffer Veronica Tirado wrote in an email to 14 East to come "with an appointment, as our office is currently closed to walk ins," and to "please call 773.840.7880 to schedule a time to come in."

In the 40th Ward, represented by Ald. Andre Vasquez, which spans Arcadia Terrace, Budlong Woods and parts of Andersonville, residents can use this Airtable form to coordinate distribution and show proof of residency, according to an email to 14 East.

In the 50th Ward, represented by Ald. Debra Silverstein, which encompasses West Ridge, residents can pick up KN95 masks from the ward office at 2949 W. Devon, during normal business hours, according to an email to 14 East.

In the 45th Ward, represented by Ald. James Gardiner, which spans Jefferson Park and parts of Irving Park, residents can pick up masks from the ward office, at 5425 W Lawrence.

"We also offer a service [with] our Gardiner Angels," ward staffer Maree Joyce wrote in an email to 14 East. "Volunteers as well as staff members will drop off the masks to seniors who are immobile or anyone with a disability that is unable to pick them up."

In the 4th Ward, represented by Ald. Sophia King, and which stretches from the Loop down to Kenwood, residents can pick up masks at the ward office at 435 E. 35th Street during business hours.

In the 25th Ward, represented by Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, and which stretches from the West Loop to the Lower West Side and Pilsen, as well as Chinatown, residents can pick up masks from the ward office at 2100 W. Cermak Rd every day, except for Wednesday, during office hours.

“So far, we have distributed 5,400 masks to schools, churches and senior centers, while the others will be available for residents that come into the office,” the office wrote to 14 East in an email. “Along with the KN95 masks, our office is giving out hand sanitizers to residents. Additionally, we are giving information on how to stop the spread of COVID and rental assistance resources.”

In the 3rd Ward, represented by Ald. Pat Dowell, and which stretches from the South Loop to Washington Park, residents can pick up masks at the ward office located at 5046 S. State Street, per an email to 14 East.

In the 5th Ward, represented by Ald. Leslie Hairston, and which stretches from Hyde Park to Jackson Park and part of South Shore, residents can come to the ward office at 2325 E. 71st Street to pick up masks, according to the office.

In the 12th Ward, represented by Ald. George Cardenas, and which stretches from Little Village to McKinley Park, residents can pick up masks from the ward office at 3476 S. Archer between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday through Friday.

In the 15th Ward, represented by Ald. Raymond Lopez, and which stretches from Brighton Park, Back of the Yards and West Englewood, residents can request masks from the ward's two service offices (in Brighton Park at 4286 South Archer Avenue and in West Englewood at 6412 South Ashland Avenue) by calling 773-823-1539.

"We encourage residents not to come in person to make requests but rather do it over the phone. We will make deliveries daily," Ald. Raymond Lopez wrote to 14 East in an email. "Aldermanic offices are able to help residents with a wide-range of services and, if not, can direct them to the appropriate agency or elected official. I welcome my residents to call us with any problem & we can figure it out together."

As for whether the wards would be receiving more masks, Ald. Lopez was unsure, but has plans to apply funding toward PPE. "It is unknown what CDPH will do in the future as the Lightfoot Administration does not coordinate well with others," he wrote. "However, I have contacts in place to make purchases in the future if funding sources are available. In 2020 and 2021, aldermanic offices were allowed to make $15,000 in COVID-related purchases for items, including PPE. If that holds true for 2022, I will definitely use those funds again for my residents."




Header image by Bridget Killian