White House Reportedly Shut Down USPS Plan To Deliver Millions Of Face Masks In April

According to the Washington Post, a senior official said the Trump administration didn’t want to “create concern or panic” by delivering the masks.

A postal worker drives by a "Save the Post Office" rally in Los Angeles, August 2020 | Getty Images
A postal worker drives by a "Save the Post Office" rally in Los Angeles, August 2020 | Getty Images

The United States Postal Service was getting ready to deliver face masks to millions of households in the U.S. back in April, but the White House scrapped the plan after worrying it would spark “concern or panic,” according to a report by The Washington Post. 

American Oversight, a non-partisan government watchdog, obtained thousands of emails and other documents from the USPS through the Freedom Of Information Act. American Oversight noted it made the initial request to find “communications of Postmaster General Megan Brennan containing key terms related to possible political interference.” Brennan led the agency until May; it is now helmed by Republican mega donor Louis DeJoy.

The documents are from the months of March and April, when so much was still unknown about COVID-19 as it was rapidly spreading, overwhelming hospitals and medical facilities. 

At a press briefing Friday, a reporter asked President Trump about the USPS plan to mail masks to households. Trump responded that he didn't know about the plan because, "I don't run it," then pivoted to package prices and voter fraud. 

One of the documents obtained was an unpublished USPS press release that would announce a program to provide five cotton masks per household— 650 million altogether. According to the draft, the postal agency was working with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the White House coronavirus task force and would first deliver masks to essential workers. The prospective delivery was set for an undetermined date in April, according to the draft. 

According to senior officials who spoke with The Post on the condition of anonymity, the Trump administration ultimately slashed the plan to deliver masks.  

“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,” the official told The Post.

The HHS instead created “Project America Strong” and distributed cotton masks to essential businesses, health care facilities, and community organizations. An HHS spokesperson told The Post that it also set aside 125 million masks for schools. 

Facial coverings, personal protective equipment for medical workers, and hand soaps and sanitizers were scarce in the early stages of the pandemic. Homemade masks and PPE were a short-term solution at the time when cases were soaring to unprecedented levels. 

This isn’t the first time the public has been made aware of the Trump administration’s mishandling of the pandemic. In bombshell audio from an interview between President Trump and Bob Woodward released earlier this month, Trump said in February that he knew the coronavirus was deadlier than the flu. In separate audio from March, he told Woodward he intentionally downplayed the virus. 

Experts have noted that earlier government restrictions and public health guidelines could have saved thousands of people.

Continued research on COVID-19 has shown that facial coverings are one of the most effective ways to prevent the transmission of the virus. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention widely recommended mask use in April and noted that close contact with another person is the main source of virus spread, compared to touching surfaces. 

As of Friday, more than 6.6 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S., including at least 198,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. 

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