In the policy approach that is already characterizing the Biden presidency, mandates to address the COVID-19 pandemic have followed in the vein of reversing nearly everything done by former President Trump. The Biden administration is considering relaunching an initiative discarded by the Trump administration on masks this time around.
Biden’s White House coronavirus task force is considering mailing masks to all Americans across the country, three people connected to internal White House discussions confirmed to NBC News.
NBC reports following emails obtained from the U.S. Postal Service in September that the Trump administration had originally considered a similar plan in the early weeks of the pandemic. The task force ultimately opted to scrap the plan in favor of handing out masks to frontline medical workers, states, and nongovernmental organizations.
However, the NBC story reports that the new proposal has not been formalized or sent to Biden’s desk. Still, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted at Wednesday’s briefing that the president invoked the “Defense Production Act” to potentially increase production of the personal protection kit.
“There are a variety of options on the table to help protect more Americans from the coronavirus and encourage people to mask, but no decision has been made.”Jen Psaki, WH press secretary
The Trump administration’s plan that was to be carried out would have sent 650 million masks to American families. Now, so far, the full scope and cost of the Biden team’s proposal is unknown.
It is unclear when the masks would be released to the public, how many would be included per residence and whether they would be disposable or cloth. It is also not yet clear what the cost might be.
Biden against COVID-19: Masks, tests and vaccine distribution
Biden has enacted several measures, including one enacted in his first days in office that mandates the use of masks on all federal property and most forms of public transportation for the next several months.
Among the measures, the BBC reported, President Biden included expanded testing and accelerated vaccine distribution. The president said it would take months to defeat the pandemic but that the U.S. would “get through this” if people worked together.
In addition, the Democratic leader encouraged government food assistance for children who rely on school meals as a primary source of nutrition but are unable to access them because of distance learning.
The Department of Health and Human Services signed contracts for $640 million in May with a group of textile manufacturers to make masks under the “America Strong Project,” according to federal procurement records, NBC reports. The largest contract went to Hanes, which manufactured 450 million masks in May and July.
The U.S. has recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths of any country in the world, with more than 410,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It has also recorded more than 24.6 million cases.
“While vaccine distribution continues to increase,” NBC explains, “it’s likely that facial coverings are here to stay. Top doctors predict that Americans will need to use them until the U.S. reaches herd immunity and possibly longer.”