Biden Administration Will Make Free High-Quality Face Masks Available to All Americans

AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File

(CNN) – President Joe Biden on Thursday announced his administration would make “high-quality masks” available to Americans for free, as the US struggles to contain the new surge of the Omicron variant and hospitalizations from Covid-19 reach new highs.

The President also announced his administration would purchase an additional 500 million Covid-19 tests — on top of the 500 million tests he previously announced — and said the website where Americans can go to get the free tests shipped to them will be rolled out next week.

“I know we all wish could finally be done with wearing masks, I get it, but they are a really important tool to stop the spread, especially of the highly transmissible Omicron variant,” Biden said in remarks from the White House.

He noted that for some Americans, “a mask is not always affordable or convenient to get,” and that his administration would announce more details about how it will distribute free masks next week.

Some experts have said Americans should be wearing N95 and KN95 masks instead of cloth or surgical masks to avoid the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not changed its guidance on masking, but earlier this week White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said the Biden administration was “strongly considering” making these higher quality masks more readily available to Americans.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday that the agency continues to recommend that “any mask is better than no mask,” and that Americans should wear a “well-fitting mask” to protect themselves and stop the spread of the virus.

The new announcements from the President come as his administration faces growing scrutiny alongside record Covid-19 hospitalizations, testing challenges and messaging frustration.

Biden acknowledged the malaise that the country is feeling during this latest onslaught of Covid-19 cases.
“I know we’re all frustrated as we enter this new year — the Omicron variant is causing millions of cases and record hospitalizations,” he said, before reiterating his belief that the pandemic is primarily affecting the unvaccinated in a plea for people to get their shots.

The President outlined how much better off Americans who have received their vaccination and booster shots are compared to those who have not when they are exposed to the virus.

“Right now, both vaccinated and unvaccinated people are testing positive, but what happens after that could not be more different,” Biden said.

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