The White House shot down a plan to mail reusable masks to every household earlier this year over concerns it could create a "panic," according to a new report.
The Washington Post obtained 10,000 pages of documents, which revealed that a news release about the plan to ship 650 million masks to Americans — five for each household — was drafted but never finalized.
"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 administration official told the Post.
The idea to ship masks to Americans via the U.S. Postal Service came from the Department of Health and Human Services in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Areas hit hard by the virus would have been first to receive the masks, the Post reported.
The Postal Service assumed it would be called on to ship the masks and started preparing for the effort. The press release draft, which has several edits visible, reads, in part, "The U.S. Postal Service today announced it will distribute 650 million reusable cotton face coverings on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to every residential delivery point in America, beginning in areas which HHS has identified as experiencing high transmission rates of COVID-19 and to workers providing essential services throughout the nation during this pandemic."
The idea was ultimately scrapped in favor of another program, Project America Strong, that is sending 650 million "reusable cotton face masks to critical infrastructure sectors, companies, healthcare facilities, and faith-based and community organizations across the country."
An HHS spokesperson told the Post that the $675 million project has already distributed 600 million masks.
Health officials have stressed the importance of wearing face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19, which has infected more than 30 million people worldwide and killed nearly 950,000.
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