The chief of staff for President Joe Biden says the administration is looking at sending masks to every household in the U.S., as the White House seeks to get Americans to “mask up” over the first 100 days of the Biden presidency.
What are the details?
NBC News reported Thursday that the administration was batting around the idea of mailing out masks, an idea that was floated during the Trump administration but ultimately scrapped.
In an interview with the outlet Thursday evening, NBC’s Lester Holt asked Biden chief of staff Ron Klain about whether the idea was back on the table.
“Yeah, ya know, Lester, this was an idea that really came up last year in the Trump administration,” Klain began. “The public health agencies recommended it, the president vetoed it for some reason, we want to get this back on track. We’re looking at what can be done to quickly do this with the mask supplies that we have.
“I hope in the next few days, or next week, we may be able to announce some progress on this,” he continued. “Of course, this is part, overall, of a plan to try to get every American masked up in these first 100 days.”
Klain added, “We’re going to do everything we can to make masks more available to people, to increase the supply of masks, and of course, to get people to wear those masks.”
The specifics of how many masks would be sent out per household and how much the initiative would cost has not yet been released.
ABC News reported last September that a watchdog group, American Oversight, was able to obtain documents from earlier in 2020 detailing the United States Postal Service’s plans to “distribute 650 million reusable cotton face masks to Americans” that spring. That would have amounted to five masks for every household.
A Trump administration official told The Washington Post at the time, “There was concern from some in the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president that households receiving masks might create concern or panic.”
The Trump White House instead sent masks to organizations for distribution.
Forbes reported that according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from December, 73% of Americans said they wear a mask when out in public, including 55% of Republicans. The outlet noted, “that number shows how mask-wearing has become more popular as the pandemic continues: in May, only 52% of Americans were wearing masks all the time.”
President Donald Trump received heavy criticism for his reluctance to wear masks early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, while Biden has pushed masks and campaigned on the vow to issue a nationwide mask mandate. Within hours of taking office on Jan. 20, Biden issued executive orders requiring masks to be worn on federal property and on interstate transportation such as airplanes and rail.