Biden Under Fire for Resisting Calls to Distribute N95 Masks to All

Jerri-Lynn here. I’m amazed any of these administration jokers still have jobs. While they dither about mask guidance and distribution, Omicron gallops across the country. Even if only half the people in the U.S. wear masks, that’s still an awful lot of people, at least some in not many of whom are having difficulty sourcing genuine N95 or KN95 masks.

An update: Common Dreams reported that Bernie did indeed reintroduce legislation yesterday to distribute N95 masks to everyone in the U.S.: Sanders Reintroduces ‘N95 Mask for All’ Legislation.

By Jake Johnson. Originally published at Common Dreams

The Biden administration faced growing backlash Wednesday for resisting calls from public health experts and progressives to distribute N95 masks to all U.S. households to help fight the Omicron wave, which is pushing new coronavirus infections to record-shattering highs nationwide.

An unnamed senior administration official sparked outrage by claiming in an interview with Politico that because “half the country won’t wear any mask,” widespread distribution of high-quality face coverings would be pointless.

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 said. “To prevent spread, the focus should be maximizing the number of people simply wearing a mask in the first place, not shifting the goalposts to urge everyone to go above and beyond to use high filtration masks to make it less likely they themselves will inhale particles.”

The official’s comment led New Republic contributing editor Osita Nwanevu to tweet sardonically that “the official policy on proper masks right now is, ‘I dunno, see if you can find something that isn’t counterfeit on Amazon.'”

Gizmodo‘s Matt Novak noted that even granting the unsubstantiated premise that half the country wouldn’t wear freely distributed N95s, “the other half of the country, ostensibly Joe Biden’s base, would like to avoid getting sick and potentially dying from Covid-19.”

Public health experts have vocally argued in recent weeks that the Biden administration should promote the use of N95 masks to combat Omicron, given that cloth masks appear to be less effective at preventing transmission of the highly contagious variant.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and other progressive lawmakers have echoed that message, demanding that masks be sent directly to households just as the administration is preparing to distribute hundreds of millions of rapid at-home tests.

With the Biden administration thus far declining to act, Sanders is expected to unveil a bill Wednesday that would ensure N95 masks are distributed to every U.S. household—a proposal that the Vermont senator has been advocating since the early stages of the pandemic.

“All Americans should have face masks that will keep them safe,” Sanders tweeted Tuesday. “I will be introducing legislation tomorrow for N95 masks to be sent to every household in the country. This will save lives and reduce healthcare costs.”

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that he will be introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

Politico reported Tuesday that some administration officials—including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy—and outside White House allies have pressured President Joe Biden to adopt the approach Sanders and others are pushing as the Omicron strain wreaks havoc across the country.

“If we’re recommending folks wear N95 masks, then we should provide them.”

Céline Gounder, an infectious disease specialist and former Covid-19 adviser to the Biden transition team, told Politico that she has called on the White House to “provide N95 and KN95 masks through the website” the administration is standing up as part of its plan to distribute at-home tests to any American who requests them.

With the White House deliberating its mask policies, the Centers for Disease Control is reportedly considering updating its guidance to recommend that all people—not just healthcare personnel—wear N95 or KN95 masks whenever possible.

Such guidance would be difficult for many to follow in the absence of coordinated federal policy aimed at distributing such high-quality masks nationwide. At present, N95 masks can be hard to find in the U.S., particularly amid the sea of fakes being sold by online retailers.

Last month, as Common Dreams reported, a coalition of public health experts and advocates launched a campaign urging the Biden administration to send “an ample and continuous supply of free rapid at-home tests and N95-quality masks to every household in America twice a month through May 2022.”

Such high-quality masks, said the coalition, are “necessary to keep the virus at bay.”

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  1. LawnDart

    Lest we forget Dr. Fauci’s recommendation:

    You ask, “why does he still have his job?” while I ask, “why does he still have his head?’

    In Carolinas this week– masks few and far between. Of course, the maskless are persons more likely to leave the house and mingle in public during these times, so that’s what you see.

  2. Nikkikat

    Here in the Midwest mask wearing has picked up considerably as well in California, where I have friends and family. It was very good also prior to the CDC telling people who were vaccinated that they could take them off. Undoubtedly causing many thousands to become infected. They said this knowing vaccines were not sterilizing. They also lied about masks at the beginning of the pandemic. People would wear them and it would save lives. Checker at Kroger was wearing an n95 and a surgical mask on top. How about protecting these working people that all the elites used to pretend to care about, you know those essential workers remember them?

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      That was when Tom Hanks was sick. No one cares now. Team Blue elites seem to enjoy more concerned with kicking teachers, an overwhelming Democratic party voting bloc, to appease Reagan’s corpse than governing.

    2. Leftcoastindie

      My daughter and her boyfriend went up to LA this past weekend and she told us everybody had masks on whether they were indoors or outside. Definitely not the case here in San Diego county.

  3. Samuel Conner

    One might say that we are seeing what is behind the mask of our elected government.

    I wonder if CDC will report elevated cancer morbidity and mortality, the longest of long COVID sequelae, in its MMWRs in future.

    How will they spin that?

    Perhaps citizen initiative could help.

    Ask local county health departments to source these from reliable vendors (the big distributors I have seen online do not sell to households), and provide funds for that. In case quantities, 3M Auras are less than $1 each. The 9205+ comes in cases of 240 and 440. Distribute to neighbors.

    rinse and repeat.

    If the Feds won’t generate the demand the producers need to stay in business, perhaps the people can.

    And vote 3rd party in November.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Here in Tucson, the city set up free mask distribution sites. That was back during the summer and fall of 2020. From what I heard, people who received the masks were very appreciative.

      1. MichaelC

        I think the Dems are so hell bent on neutering the progressive wing they are committing suicide (and genocide against the despairing majority of progressive citizens who want the rights Bernie espouses
        and they see as inalienable rights, but refuse to eat the D dog food offered in election choices)

        Matt Novcks observation and rebuttal to the nonsensical conclusion that 50% won’t use them is wonderfully refreshing and illuminating to me ,and I think the Dems should take notice.
        ‘The other half of the country, ostensibly JBs base, would like to avoid getting sick …’

        He,s only got that partially right. JBs base will be appreciative and expect it as their due. Bernie’s base, who are disgusted with both parties will be grateful, relieved and empowered if he succeeds in getting them adequately masked.

        The Ds and the Rs don’t care if they kill us. The rest of us who refuse to vote ( the majority )May look favorably on the man that delivers tangible benefits I.e a good mask in our mailbox.

  4. jr

    Did I miss something? Other than snarking about the half of deplorables that wouldn’t wear the masks anyway, did any of them give one rationalization for exactly why they won’t send out masks and tests? Don’t the mask and test manufacturers have lobbyists to fight on our behalf at a time like this?

    1. antidlc

      “Don’t the mask and test manufacturers have lobbyists to fight on our behalf at a time like this?”

      From March, 2021:

      Masks stack up in US warehouses as nurses reuse N95 respirators
      US mask makers say they can make enough for every American

      U.S. manufacturers say they have enough high-filtration respirators like N95s in their warehouses for every American adult, and they are calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to revise guidance that discourages the general public from getting them.

      “The U.S. has ample supply of masks and meltblown material to protect the entire workforce and public with high-filtration masks,” wrote a new coalition of 49 American manufacturers in a letter obtained by CQ Roll Call.

      The letter, dated Monday, is addressed to President Joe Biden, COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, National Institutes of Health senior official Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

      But I think the reason for the CDC’s position on masks is explained here:

      Saying this implies on some level that OSHA standards need to change and would sound like they are acknowledging airborne transmission which would be a game changer for industries and hospitals who do not want to fund the infrastructure changes (or PPE) for airborne virus.


      CDC has decided that shielding businesses and government entities from liability for unsafe air is more important than human health.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Mask makers and test makers are really different industries. Masks reduce the needs for tests. The domestic mask producers have all the problems we associate with deindustrialization. They are nothing lobbying wise.

  5. antidlc

    Walensky says CDC mask recommendation will not change

    Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Wednesday that it does not plan to change its mask guidance to advise Americans to wear higher quality masks amid the omicron surge.

    The CDC director said during a White House briefing that her agency currently recommends that “any mask is better than no mask” to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    The guidance does not advise Americans to wear a specific kind of mask, such as a medical-grade KN95 or N95 instead of a cloth mask, although Walensky said the CDC plans to update its website to help Americans choose their face covering.

  6. NotTimothyGeithner

    Once again, moderates are showing their common sense approach by calling for government to step in during extraordinary times and support industry by buying and sending masks to Americans. As for President Manchin and his friend the former VP, who knows?

  7. Skip Intro

    Looks like the Biden Bunch has established a modus operandi:Administration official openly scorns reasonable public health policy, is rightly savaged in the twitterverse and beyond for clueless callousness, and the administration does a 180 and issues an empty promise to implement said policy!

  8. shinola

    Biden is on the boob toob now. Says the gov. is sending home test kits to every household in U,S & making “high quality” face masks “available” to everyone at no cost… (what does “available” mean in this case?)

    1. drsteve0

      Well, it will be access to potential tax deductible availability, but only after correctly filling out the seventeen (17) page eligibility form, available online if the gubmit website is functioning. That 33% approval rating seems to have lit a fire under these folks.

  9. Dr. John Carpenter

    “Sanders is expected to unveil a bill Wednesday that would ensure N95 masks are distributed to every U.S. household”

    Is this the first time, two years in, someone has introduced such legislation?

    1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

      See my introductory headnote at the top of this post, linking to another Common Dreams article. Sanders indeed reintroduced legislation yesterday providing for the feds to distribute free N95 masks to everyone. In addition, I ran a crosspost some weeks ago discussing an earlier similar Sanders initiative.

      1. Anthony G Stegman

        Unfortunately for us all, Sanders is a wimp who won’t go to the mat to fight for the things he says he believes in. Sanders could have held up all kinds of legislation the way Manchin does, but instead he caves. Few of us heard about Sanders’ prior “masks for all” legislation because he likely caved soon after he introduced it. Sanders is mostly a windbag. He has little to show for all his years in politics.

        1. LilD

          Well, I disagree. As an independent he has mostly only had minor deal making power, yet has managed to get an enormous number of (in my opinion) beneficial amendments added to legislation. I’d like more, but he’s just one guy.
          Perhaps he could have played more hardball. For him, it’s a long game

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Next week, my administration will announce how we are making high-quality masks available to the American people for free.

      Just pathetic.

  10. Joe Well

    What is the situation on the ground?

    Here in Boston, many more people are wearing what look like KN95 masks and even N95.

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