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Biden White House To Provide 400 Million Free N95 Masks After Laughing off the Idea a Week Ago

Joe Biden holds a black face mask up to his face during a press conference in front of an American flag.

The White House announced Wednesday that the Biden-Harris administration would be making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and health centers nationwide.

This move is about two years too late but still undeniably good news, although a lot of people are, understandably, reacting with a fair amount of cynicism as well as skepticism. The announcement came right on the heels of some intense backlash after an unnamed senior official laughed off the idea of providing free masks to people in the U.S. (Which also came soon after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki laughed off the idea of providing free at-home tests, a stance they also soon reversed.)

“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,” that official sneered to Politico. (We don’t actually know the person’s tone but their words certainly sound sneery.) “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.”

The day after that quote was published, the Biden administration announced it planned to provide “high-quality masks” for free, although the details of that plan had not been stated until now. Hopefully, this promise to provide masks for free at pharmacies means they will actually be free, and not part of some sort of reimbursement deal like we’re seeing with Biden’s “free” at-home COVID-19 tests available in pharmacies.

As for the actually free (meaning no one has to go through an insurance company) COVID tests being supplied by this administration, those have seen their own share of problems. The website to order them launched a day earlier than planned, allowing people to order four tests per household through the postal service.

However, limiting the supply to four per household, no matter how many people live there, is a bizarre choice to begin with— made worse by the fact that the site did not appear to allow for the existence of different units at an address.

Obviously, leading a country through a massive public health crisis is not an easy job. But if they’re going to deliver too little, far too late, you’d think they could at least not be so smugly dismissive about our needs before they get around to doing these things.

(image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.