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The Trump administration shut down a plan from the U.S. Postal Service to mail five free face masks to every U.S. household in April, according to several reports.
The USPS, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), had drafted a press release announcing that it would distribute a stockpile of 650 million reusable masks to every residential address in the country. The first shipments, in April, would go to COVID-19 hotspots.
“Our organization is uniquely suited to undertake this historic mission of delivering face coverings to every American household in the fight against the COVID-19 virus,” then-Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan said the unsent press release.
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Internal White House emails, obtained by the Washington Post and NBC News, showed that the Trump administration decided to cancel the program. An official in the administration told the Post that “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.”
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HHS opted to instead distribute the masks to nonprofit organizations and state and federal agencies. A spokesperson for the department told the Post that about 600 million have been sent out since April.
When the plan originated in April, the Centers for Disease Control had just recommended that all Americans wear cloth face masks when they go out in public to slow the spread of COVID-19. President Donald Trump said at the time that he likely would not wear a mask and has rarely donned one publicly.
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Though several scientific studies have since confirmed that masks are effective, Trump has pushed back on them as recently as Wednesday, and has not required them at his rallies.
Former Postmaster General Brennan, a holdover from the Obama administration, was succeeded in June by Louis DeJoy. Since taking office, DeJoy, a Trump donor, has made several cost-cutting changes to the mail organization in recent weeks, raising questions about how the USPS will be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots ahead of the November presidential election.
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