(Reuters) – The Biden administration will deliver more than 25 million masks to community health centers, food pantries and soup kitchens this spring as part of its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said on Wednesday.
U.S. health authorities recommend mask wearing as a critical measure to help slow the spread of disease and the White House said low-income Americans still don’t have access to masks.
The government will deliver the masks to more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens between March and May, the White House said.
The masks are expected to reach between 12 million and 15 million Americans, it said.
Democratic President Joe Biden issued a mask mandate when he took office in January as the pandemic raged on, requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings and the development of a testing program for federal employees for COVID-19.
Shortly afterward, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a sweeping order requiring the use of face masks on nearly all forms of public transportation.
The White House said two-thirds of the people served by community health Centers live in poverty, 60% are racial and/or ethnic minorities, and nearly 1.4 million are homeless.
“These masks will be no cost, high-quality, washable, and consistent with the mask guidance from the CDC. All of these masks will be made in America, and will not impact availability of masks for health care workers,” the statement said.
Earlier this week, President Biden mourned the 500,000 lives the pandemic took over the last year Monday. The Americans who survived the pandemic have had to deal with mass unemployment, the debate over face masks and social distancing.
(Reporting by Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)