MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Much sought-after N95 masks have arrived on the Grand Strand, but tracking down one of the free face coverings is like going on a scavenger hunt.

The Biden administration recently announced that pharmacy chains and some health centers would be getting 400 million N95 masks to help in the ongoing fight against COVID-19. Individuals would be provided three of the masks at no cost.

News13 followed up with Kroger in the Myrtle Beach area after hearing from several viewers who said the masks were not available on Thursday when they were expected to be delivered. A store associate in Carolina Forest said that store got about 5,000 masks Monday night.

“I was very disappointed because I was looking forward to being able to pick some up,” Jeanette Mikesh, a Kroger customer said.

Walgreens also has not had masks immediately available. and signs on the doors at some stores say “government-provided masks are not available at this location.”

Walgreens issued the following statement about mask deliveries:

“We are pleased to partner with the Administration to make N95 masks in varying sizes available free of charge at participating Walgreens locations while supplies last. Masks have begun to roll out to the first wave of stores and will continue to roll out into additional stores in the coming days and weeks. We anticipate all participating stores will receive supply by mid-February.”

In addition to in-store signage indicating store participation in the federal program, Walgreens said it will update its store-locator list as new shipments arrive in stores

News13 called several CVS stores to check on availability. Only the pharmacy on Church Street in Conway had a limited supply Tuesday afternoon.

Store associates at Kroger in North Myrtle Beach told News13 on Tuesday that they were expecting a delivery of N95 masks on Wednesday. Deliveries of the masks are expected in the coming days or even weeks at CVS and Walgreens.

“N95 is the highest level of protection,” Ann North, the director of infection prevention and control at MUSC’s Florence division said.

“N95 is a particulate respirator that actually filters germs from being breathed in or your germs from breathing out,” she said, adding that N95 masks have the best filter that prevents some of the smallest viral particles from getting inside. “Other masks that maybe [don’t] have that same filtration capability [and] would not be able to filter out particle that was that small. So, it’s really the filtration of the mask.”

As omicron and its subvariant continue to be super-spreaders, North said N95 masks offer the best protection because of their filter. They also have a longer shelf life compared with other masks until they get wet or contaminated.

“If there’s dampness or any kind of contamination – if you sneeze into the mask or something and it becomes contaminated, then you throw it away,” North said. “The N95’s can be used and reused for some time until that moisture factor is in play.”