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President Joe Biden plans to distribute 400 million N95 face masks to pharmacies and community sites across the nation.
The masks will be sourced from the government’s Strategic National Stockpile and distributed for free, insiders familiar with the plan told Politico.
The initiative is part of Biden’s effort to ensure the Americans have access to ‘more-protective’ masks as some states are experiencing a surge in COVID cases.
It comes after public health experts and former Biden transition advisers in recent weeks have pushed the White House to take action as people struggle to find affordable and genuine N95s.
Biden is expected to formally announce the plan on Wednesday, as well as discuss the administration’s efforts to slow the surge and increase COVID testing.
President Joe Biden (pictured last Thursday) plans to distribute millions of N95 face masks to pharmacies and community sites across the nation as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge
The masks will be sourced from the 737 million N95 masks in the government’s Strategic National Stockpile and distributed for free
Last week, Biden signaled that he would soon be announcing a plan to distribute free face masks to citizens, acknowledging ‘high-quality masks’ are not always accessible to everyone.
‘I know for some Americans the mask is not always affordable or convenient to get,’ he said Thursday.
‘I know we all wish that we could finally be done with wearing masks. I get it. But they’re a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of a highly transmittable Omicron variant.’
The president also pushed citizens to ‘please, please wear the mask.’
The government has 737 million N95 masks in its national stockpile, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell revealed Tuesday.
The initiative is part of Biden’s effort to ensure the American people have access to ‘more-protective’ masks as the US reports a record number of positive cases
The government also quietly launched its covidtests.gov website Tuesday which allows each American household to have four at-home COVID-19 shipped directly to their residence
He said the masks were sourced from 12 domestic manufacturers with whom officials are working to secure ongoing contracts at the current production volume.
‘We are also in the process of putting out an agreement for warm base manufacturing so we’re able to keep this capacity that we currently have going, even when demand diminishes,’ O’Connell testified to the Senate HELP Committee during a pandemic response hearing.
The government also quietly launched its covidtests.gov website Tuesday, which can be used to ship four at-home COVID-19 directly to households.
‘COVIDtests.gov is in the beta phase right now, which is a standard part of the process typically as it’s being kind of tested in the early stages of being rolled out,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
The website will formally roll out on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, projections shared during a White House briefing Tuesday estimate that between 58,000 and 305,000 Americans will succumb to the virus over the next two months.
The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 on January 17 – still below the peak of 3,300 in January 2021
Cases have rocketed in recent weeks, reaching 800,000 daily cases on average earlier this week. According to data released by the CDC Tuesday, the Omicron variant makes up 99.5 percent of active cases in America
The US reported 853,000 COVID deaths as of Tuesday afternoon. Projections shared during a White House briefing Tuesday estimate that between up to 305,000 Americans could die from COVID between now and when the wave is expected to subside by mid-March
The higher estimate would bring America’s overall COVID death total – sitting at over 853,000 as of Tuesday afternoon – over one million, a mark no other country in the world has reached.
The projection comes despite the growing data that the Omicron variant is less severe than its predecessors.
Data revealed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week showed that a person infected with Omicron is 91 percent less likely to die than a person who contracted Delta.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said last week that the Delta variant was still responsible for the recent uptick in deaths suffered by the U.S. despite making up a minimal proportion of cases.
According to data released by the agency Tuesday, the Omicron variant makes up 99.5 percent of active cases in America.
The seven-day rolling average for daily new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. has been trending upward since mid-November, reaching nearly 1,700 on January 17 – still below the peak of 3,300 in January 2021.
Cases have rocketed in recent weeks, reaching 800,000 daily cases on average earlier this week. Testing shortages, the prevalence of asymptomatic cases and many rapid tests going unreported means the figure is likely even higher.
The spike in cases has, fortunately, not also translated into a sharp increase of deaths from the highly infectious strain.
Despite signs Omicron causes milder disease on average, the unprecedented level of infection spreading through the country, with cases still soaring in many states, means many vulnerable people will become severely sick.