Biden administration to deliver 25M free masks to those in need

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new effort Wednesday to deliver more than 25 million free, American-made masks to those in need across the country.

The washable, cloth masks will be delivered to over 1,300 community health centers, as well as 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens.

“Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly, not all Americans have access, and not all masks are equal,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said during a briefing Wednesday. “With this action, we are helping to level the playing field, giving vulnerable populations quality well-fitting masks.”

They’ll be made available in children and adult sizes, meeting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards.

Zients said the effort emphasizes the Biden administration’s push to ensure equity is at the focus of the government’s response to the pandemic.

The Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture will be involved in the distribution of more than 25 million. The White House estimates they will reach 12 million to 15 million people.

Biden has asked everyone to wear face masks for the first 100 days of his term. He also required mask-wearing in federal buildings and on public transportation.

The announcement comes as vaccine-makers predict that supplies should surge in the coming weeks.

Executives of major vaccine manufacturers, such as Pfizer and Moderna, told Congress Tuesday to expect a big jump in the delivery of doses soon, promising they will be able to provide enough for most Americans to get inoculated by summer.

The spike is in part attributed to manufacturing expansions, as well as new vaccine authorizations.

By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. government with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up sharply from the roughly 75 million shipped so far.

A third option from Johnson & Johnson is on the path to potential U.S. emergency use authorization, after FDA scientists determined Wednesday that the single-dose vaccine appeared safe and effective in trials.

The Biden administration said Tuesday that it expects about 2 million doses of that vaccine to be shipped in the first week, but the company told lawmakers it should provide enough of the single-dose option for 20 million people by the end of March.

This summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.

CVS Health Corp said on Wednesday it will administer COVID-19 vaccines in six additional states, making about 570,000 doses available across a total of 17 states from Feb. 25.

The U.S. drugstore chain said it has added Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to its list of states where CVS pharmacy stores will offer COVID-19 vaccinations through the U.S. government’s Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

CVS has been giving the vaccines at its pharmacies in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia, as well as in several long-term care facilities.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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