We’re a year into the pandemic, but the U.S. government is still getting around to implementing some common-sense measures to protect the American population against the deadly coronavirus.
According to CBS News, the Biden administration will be sending 25 million cloth masks to community centers, health centers and food banks in hopes of reaching between 12 to 15 million Americans living in disadvantaged areas.
The planned mask distribution is part of the White House’s efforts to improve equity in how the government has responded to the pandemic, which as we know has been disproportionately affecting Black communities and other communities of color. It’s also an amended version of the Trump administration’s abandoned plan to send masks to all Americans, which would have been an immensely helpful thing for the government to do—especially in the earliest days of the pandemic. The Biden administration also considered sending out masks to every American before deciding on this targeted approach to reach communities that likely need the most help, according to the Associated Press.
The distribution locations—community health centers and food banks that support soup kitchens and food pantries—are aimed at reaching low-income people and other especially vulnerable populations with free masks. The White House says two-thirds of the people served by community health centers are living in poverty, and the majority of them are people of color.
In January, the president asked all Americans to wear masks for his first 100 days in office, calling it a “patriotic act.”
The U.S. hit a world-leading milestone of 500,000 coronavirus deaths just this week. Scientists have said that donning two masks (a cloth mask over a surgical mask) is likely to better protect people from contracting the COVID-19 variants that are now circulating in the U.S.
The Biden administration says the cloth masks it will be distributing meet the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that each person will be encouraged to take two masks for each person in their household. The masks will start going out in March and distribution will run until May.