President Joe Biden has acknowledged that the White House is looking to mail out millions of coronavirus masks to Americans in the near future.
The ambitious plan was originally proposed by health officials during the Donald Trump administration but was blocked by the former president.
“We’re probably going to be sending out an awful lot of masks around the country very shortly, millions of them,” Biden said during a roundtable event with frontline workers on Tuesday.
“We could have saved literally an awful lot of lives if people had listened. We turned wearing masks into a political statement. If you were for this thing, you wore it, if we were for somebody else, you didn’t wear it, when in fact, it’s just plain basic science.”
Earlier this month, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain admitted that the Biden administration was seeking to give new life to this endeavor.
“This was an idea that really came up last year in the Trump administration—the public health agencies recommended it, President Trump vetoed it for some reason,” Klain told NBC News.
“We want to get this back on track. I hope in the next few days, or next week, we may be able to announce some progress on this.”
Throughout the past year, dozens of studies have shown that face masks and coverings are the single most effective way to protect yourself and others from contracting or spreading the virus that has killed more than five hundred thousand Americans over the course of the ongoing pandemic, according to the latest data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“Masks are a two-way street. Masks protect you and me,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in its mask guidance.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has projected that the United States will be “approaching a degree of normality” by the end of this year, but that pandemic-weary Americans may still be wearing face masks well into 2022.
“You know, I think it is possible that that’s the case (that Americans will be wearing masks in 2022) and, again, it really depends on what you mean by normality,” Biden’s chief medical advisor on COVID-19 said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union.
The CDC also has recently confirmed that double-masking, or the wearing of two face masks at once, can provide extremely high levels of protection against spreading or contracting the virus.
In addition, the agency’s study discovered that a tighter fit can markedly improve the overall effectiveness of masks. One particular way to improve the fit of medical masks is to make sure they are “knotted and tucked”—which can be achieved “by bringing together the corners and earloops on each side, knotting the ear loops together where they attach to the mask, and then tucking in and flattening the resulting extra mask material to minimize the side gaps,” the CDC noted.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.