The Biden administration is reportedly discussing the possibility of sending masks through the United States Postal Service (USPS) to every household in the country, in an effort to promote mask-wearing during the coronavirus pandemic.
No formal decision has been made on what, if any, action the Biden administration will take, though the matter has been discussed during multiple meetings at the White House.
Details remain unclear, such as the material the masks might be made out of, how many masks each household would be sent, or when they would be distributed.
“There are a range of options on the table to help protect more Americans from the coronavirus and encourage people to mask up, but no decision has been made,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement to NBC News.
The emphasis on wearing masks in the Biden White House is a stark departure from the previous administration. President Joe Biden has asked for every American to wear a mask during his first 100 days in office in order to stem the spread of coronavirus. The president has also issued a number of executive orders on masks, including a requirement for individuals to wear them on all federal properties.
And while aides in the Trump White House were often seen without wearing masks of any kind, every employee is required to wear a mask while inside the West Wing under Biden’s watch.
The USPS had drafted similar plans for distributing masks by mail in 2020, but the Trump administration scrapped the idea, basing its decision on not wanting to cause alarm among the populace.
“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,” a Trump official told The Washington Post in September 2020.
Information about the scrapped plan was discovered after a Freedom of Information Act request was made by American Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group. After learning about the administration’s refusal to push forward with the idea, the organization decried the decision as antithetical to the known science and efficacy of wearing masks to combat coronavirus.
“The Postal Service connects every single person in America, and [President Donald Trump] could have used it for public health, but he didn’t,” American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers said at the time. “An opportunity to deliver science-based public health tools to every person in the country was lost.”
Masks are one of the most effective means of preventing the spread of coronavirus. A health model produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington demonstrates that masks and facial coverings will continue to be an important tool to keep people healthy, and to save lives.
According to IHME, if everyone in the country wore masks between now and May 1, there would be close to 90,000 fewer deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. The health model also projects that widespread mask-wearing would half the daily death count from the virus over the same period.
The current 7-day average of new daily deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. currently sits at 3,054 deaths per day. As of Thursday, more than 26.5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 450,000 have died from it since the start of the pandemic.