WASHINGTON — The White House announced Wednesday that the Biden administration will deliver more than 25 million cloth masks to communities around the country in an effort to provide protection from the coronavirus to low-income Americans.
The masks will be available starting in March at more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens. The free masks will be available in children and and adult sizes and can be washed for reuse.
"Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly; not all Americans have access; and not all masks are equal," White House coronavirus coordinator Jeffrey Zients said at a press conference.
"With this action we are helping to level the playing field — giving vulnerable populations quality, well-fitting masks," he said.
Zients said the masks, which cost $86 million and were American-made, would not have an impact on the supply for health care workers.
"We really believe that this policy makes a lot of sense in that it allows people who are not able in some situations to find or afford a mask to get a mask, and it is part of our equity strategy," Zients said.
Still, the White House's action does not include a plan to address resistance from some communities to wear a mask, even when one is available.
The White House had initially considered sending a mask to all Americans. Zients said that would have been helpful "months ago," but that the Biden administration ultimately felt a more targeted approach to lower-income communities was a better step at this point in the pandemic.