Postal Service’s plan to send face masks to Americans allegedly nixed by White House

The United States Postal Service drafted plans to distribute 650 million reusable cotton face masks to Americans last spring — five to every household — as the country grappled with the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak, according to USPS internal documents obtained by a watchdog group.



a man holding a sign: A U.S. Postal Service worker wearing a protective mask and face shield removes mail from a dropbox in San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 17, 2020.


© David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A U.S. Postal Service worker wearing a protective mask and face shield removes mail from a dropbox in San Francisco, Calif., Aug. 17, 2020.

The draft was among nearly 10,000 pages of USPS documents turned over to American Oversight in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The emails, memos and legal correspondence released illustrate how the agency struggled to address the pandemic in its earliest weeks, as front-line postal workers feared for their safety and executives worried about disruptions to the agency’s service and funding.


MORE: Gulf between Trump and doctors on mask wearing gets wider

According to the draft release, the agency, working with the Department of Health and Human Services, would first send masks to areas with high COVID-19 transmission rates at the time — including Louisiana’s Orleans and Jefferson parishes; King County, Washington; New York; and Wayne County, Michigan.

“Our organization is uniquely suited to undertake this historic mission of delivering face coverings to every American household in the fight against the COVID-19 virus,” the then-postmaster general and CEO, Megan J. Brennan, said in the prepared release.

The White House declined to comment on the draft proposal, referring questions to the Department of Health and Human Services.

An HHS spokesperson said roughly 600 million of the total 650 million masks have been delivered under Project America Strong as “part of a multi-prong approach to re-opening the American economy while limiting the spread of COVID-19.”

A spokesman for the Postal Service did not respond to a message seeking comment.



a man in a suit and tie: Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services,, Robert Kadlec, on Capitol Hill, Sept. 16, 2020.


© Anna Moneymaker/New York Times, Pool via AP
Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services,, Robert Kadlec, on Capitol Hill, Sept. 16, 2020.

“There was concern from some in the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president that households receiving masks might create concern or panic,” one administration official told The Washington Post about the proposal.

Instead, the initiative, announced by the Trump administration under the “Project: America Strong,” was a more targeted program to send face masks to critical infrastructure sectors, companies and health care, community and religious organizations.

The program is no longer accepting new requests for face masks, according to its website, and instead encourages applicants to purchase face masks elsewhere or make their own.

President Donald Trump said on Aug. 12 that the government would also send 120 million face masks to schools ahead of the fall.

“The Postal Service connects every single person in American, and the president could have used it for public health, but he didn’t,” Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight, told ABC News, calling out Trump. “An opportunity to deliver science-based public health

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White House nixed Postal Service plan to send face masks to every household in US: report

The White House rejected a U.S. Postal Service proposal to send face masks to every household in the U.S., according to The Washington Post.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reportedly suggested the idea in April, proposing five reusable masks be delivered to every residential address and prioritizing areas with the worst coronavirus outbreaks. The Postal Service also prepared a news release saying it would send the first shipments to Louisiana’s Orleans and Jefferson parishes, according to a draft obtained by the Post. Masks would then go to King County, Wash., Wayne County, Mich., and New York.

However, the White House reportedly vetoed the plan, instead creating the Project America Strong initiative. The $675 million initiative has distributed about 600 million masks to vulnerable and critical sectors thus far, according to HHS.

“There was concern from some in the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president that households receiving masks might create concern or panic,” an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post.

Emails obtained by the Post also indicated that postal workers felt they were left without protection as the pandemic intensified.

“I literally was on the phone today with many of my members screaming at me to do something [and] I don’t want to die,” one union official wrote, noting that postal workers were confirmed to have contracted the virus in late March. “You cannot expect the unions to convince the employees that if they come to work they have nothing to worry about.”

Although the Postal Service said a week later that it would increase its stock of personal protective equipment, then-Postmaster General Megan Brennan continued receiving frantic correspondence, the Post noted. One woman, who said her spouse was a mail carrier in Pennsylvania, demanded to know “WHY IN GOD’S NAME ARE THEY DELIVERING UNESSENTIAL MAIL to EVERY HOUSE in a HIGHLY INFECTED AREA!!!!”

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBarr criticizes DOJ in speech declaring all agency power ‘is invested in the attorney general’ Military leaders asked about using heat ray on protesters outside White House: report Powell warns failure to reach COVID-19 deal could ‘scar and damage’ economy MORE has repeatedly questioned the broad agreement among experts that masks work to slow the spread of the virus.

He has rarely worn one himself and has spoken at rallies with hundreds of largely maskless attendees.

The U.S. has recorded almost 200,000 deaths related to the coronavirus, along with more than 6.6 million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Updated at 1 p.m.

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