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Washington Post: WH nixed plan to distribute 650 million face masks through USPS

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reacts to a report from the Washington Post that claims the White House stopped a plan by the United States Postal service to mail 650 million masks to Americans.

Posted: Sep 20, 2020 9:23 AM


The United States Postal Service had planned to distribute 650 million face coverings for the Trump administration in April to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to newly obtained internal documents reviewed by CNN.

But those plans were scrapped by the White House because it didn't want to spark "concern or panic" among Americans, senior administration officials told The Washington Post.

"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," one administration official told the Post.

The documents obtained by the transparency group American Oversight show the Postal Service was doing this in partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Department of Health and Human Services and "a consortium of textile manufacturers."

When reached by CNN, the White House declined to comment.

USPS was planning to ship the masks in April and was going to prioritize areas "which HHS has identified as experiencing high transmission rates of Covid-19," according to a draft USPS release. Louisiana's Orleans and Jefferson parishes were going to be sent masks first, followed by King County, Washington; Wayne County, Michigan; and New York.

A separate draft media response statement said the packages would include "five reusable face cloths, which can be used up to 15 times each."

The scrapped plan provides a fresh look at how the White House was racing to fight the pandemic as it took hold in the US, and it adds to a growing list of steps the administration didn't take earlier this year that may have helped slow the rapidly spreading virus.

The Post noted that at the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "had been working on coronavirus guidance that recommended face coverings, a reversal of its previous position, in the face of mounting evidence that people could spread the coronavirus without experiencing symptoms."

"The Postal Service will utilize its unrivaled distribution network to deliver the face coverings. Letter carriers, rural carriers and others will deliver one pack of five face coverings to each residential delivery point and PO Box," the draft USPS release read. "The packs will arrive labeled with a generic Postal Service barcode, not a specific address, and will include HHS instructions on proper use."

The Post said that in place of the planned effort to widely distribute masks, "HHS created Project America Strong, a $675 million effort to distribute 'reusable cotton face masks to critical infrastructure sectors, companies, healthcare facilities, and faith-based and community organizations across the country.'"

A spokesman for the department told the newspaper that "about 600 million of the 650 million masks ordered have been distributed ... including 125 million set aside for schools."

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 898799

Reported Deaths: 17305
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2968216974
Riverside657571279
San Bernardino617261070
Orange580101440
San Diego53928867
Kern33669416
Fresno30471436
Sacramento25094482
Santa Clara23881388
Alameda23133456
San Joaquin21528488
Contra Costa18413240
Stanislaus17509396
Tulare17425284
Ventura14124162
Imperial12700336
San Francisco12032140
Monterey1128487
San Mateo11002159
Santa Barbara9715120
Merced9439154
Sonoma9163134
Kings820183
Solano728674
Marin7045128
Madera498174
San Luis Obispo412132
Placer408857
Yolo314458
Butte304652
Santa Cruz275325
Napa192815
Shasta183930
Sutter183712
San Benito143215
El Dorado13084
Yuba129310
Mendocino112121
Tehama8528
Lassen7641
Lake67915
Glenn6523
Nevada6038
Humboldt5619
Colusa5496
Calaveras33917
Amador31716
Tuolumne2624
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1880
Del Norte1781
Mono1762
Mariposa782
Plumas630
Modoc290
Trinity260
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Chico
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 73°
Oroville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 75°
Paradise
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 73°
Chester
Clear
65° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 65°
Red Bluff
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 75°
Willows
Few Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 73°
Fire danger will be extreme Sunday-Monday as the biggest dry wind event of the season takes shape. A widespread freeze in the Sierra-Cascades as low as single-digit values possible Sunday night. Mild & sunny weather after Tuesday.
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