WASHINGTON – The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would distribute more than 25 million masks to over 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in an effort to reach underserved communities and as part of the president’s promise to make the pandemic response more equitable.
Between March and May, the administration will send well-fitted cloth masks, available in child and adult sizes, that can be washed for reuse, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced in a news briefing.
The masks will comply with coronavirus guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, be made in the U.S. and will not affect the availability of masks for health care workers.
“Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly, not all Americans have access and not all masks are equal,” Zients said. “With this action, we are helping to level the playing field, giving vulnerable populations quality, well-fitted masks.”
The CDC has recommended wearing a mask as a key step to limiting the spread of COVID-19, and President Joe Biden has asked every American to wear a mask for his first 100 days in office. The Biden administration has required masks in federal buildings and on public transportation.
The Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Department of Defense, will deliver masks to Federally Qualified Health Centers. Among these health centers, two-thirds of the people served live in poverty, 60% are racial or ethnic minorities, and nearly 1.5 million are homeless, according to a fact sheet provided by the White House.
The Defense Department will work with the Department of Agriculture to deliver masks to about 300 food banks that extend across a network of 60,000 food pantries, soup kitchens and other food distribution points.
Americans can pick up individual wrapped masks at any of these locations, Zients said. Twelve million to 15 million Americans are expected to receive masks as a result of the campaign, the White House said.
The campaign rollout came a day after Biden told essential workers at a virtual roundtable that he expected his administration to send millions of masks around the country “very shortly.”