White House to Send Millions of Masks to At-Risk Communities

President Joe Biden’s administration will send more than 25 million masks to disadvantaged communities that have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

The administration will ship the cloth masks to 1,300 community health centers and thousands of food banks and soup kitchens, with the goal of getting them to vulnerable populations.

“While masks are widely available in many different shapes and sizes, many low-income Americans still lack affordable access to this basic protection,” Jeff Zients, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said at a briefing Wednesday in announcing the measure.

Bloomberg first reported the mass mask shipment plan Tuesday.

The masks will be shipped in packages of two and are free and washable, the administration said, estimating that 12 million to 15 million Americans will receive them and the program will cost $86 million.

When asked if N95 masks were considered rather than cloth, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, did not address the question directly at the briefing.

The distribution is intended to ensure recipients are wearing a mask “that is comfortable, easy to wear and and when worn will prevent infection,” she said. “We believe these masks will do so.”

Targeted Strategy

Biden’s White House has opted for a targeted approach, after previously considered sending masks to all Americans. Asked about the decision-making process, Zients suggested they considered it too late.

“Months ago, sending a mask to every American would have been a good idea,” Zients said. Today, masks are widely available, but many Americans are not wearing them regularly. “And not all masks are equal -- many Americans need access to a mask that provides effective protection in line with the CDC guidance.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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