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Once Again, the White House Has Been Shamed Into Doing the Right Thing & Will Now Provide “High Quality Masks” for Free


General view of some boxes of Disposable Medical Face Masks

In early December, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki scoffed at the idea that the federal government could or even should provide free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests for people living in the U.S.

At a press conference on December 6, in response to a question about whether the U.S. should follow the lead of some other countries that provide people with free at-home tests, Psaki snipped, “Should we just send one to every American? Then what, then what happens if you, if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?”

A few weeks later, the Biden administration announced that it would, in fact, be sending free tests to anyone who wants one, in addition to making tests “free” in general via health insurance reimbursement.

While the reimbursement element had already been part of the administration’s winter COVID plan and the free-by-request offer falls far short of actually sending everyone in the country free tests (something House Democrats just introduced legislation to actually do), the impression was that the intense backlash to Psaki’s comments had shamed the White House into doing the very thing they’d just mocked.

Now they’re doing it again, and this time, they laughed at the idea of sending all of us free masks.

Masks have been an essential part of combatting the spread of COVID-19 since basically Day 1 of this pandemic. Now that experts are recommending we upgrade to medical-grade N95 masks in the face of the immensely contagious Omicron variant, those should absolutely be provided for free to every single person.

But according to Politico, a senior administration official said that’s not a practical idea because “half the country won’t wear any mask” and apparently we’re suddenly OK with letting that half of the country determine what the best safety protocols are for the rest of us.

“It may be popular in certain corners of Twitter, but for masking to work as a public health tool, people need to actually wear them,” the official told the outlet. “To prevent spread, the focus should be maximizing the number of people simply wearing a mask in the first place, not shifting the goal posts to urge everyone to go above and beyond to use high filtration masks to make it less likely they themselves will inhale particles.”

Obviously, that did not go over well in “certain corners of Twitter”—specifically, the corners that want the pandemic to end and who are infuriated by seeing the price gouging and counterfeit mask selling happening all over the internet right now.

At least this time it didn’t take weeks for the shame to kick in.

From 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.

Can someone in this administration please sneer at the idea of total student debt elimination and a $20 minimum wage next? This trend is really working out for us.

(image: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.