HealthDay News — A program to offer high-quality face masks to Americans is being weighed by the Biden administration as a way to help slow the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
“We’re in the process right now of strongly considering options,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeffrey Zients said Wednesday during a news briefing on the pandemic, The New York Times reported.
Masks that offer the most protection are N95 and the K-N95, and both are approved by the U.S. government to block 95% of the new coronavirus. But they are in exceedingly short supply, and counterfeits are everywhere, experts warn. No details were provided about what type of masks might be distributed under any new federal program, how many would be offered, or when they would be provided. But Zients did say the government has a stockpile of more than 750 million N95 masks on hand for health care and emergency workers.
One option being discussed is to distribute the masks at community sites, a person familiar with the planning told The Times. On Tuesday, Dawn O’Connell, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told senators that additional contracts for N95 masks could be finalized by February, The Times reported. O’Connell added that potential contractors are being asked to produce 141 million of the masks a month at “surge capacity.”