Did you get those five reusable face masks through the United States Postal Service (USPS) back in April? You didn’t? Well, that was the USPS plan back then, according to Tony Romm, Jacob Bogage, and Lena H. Sun reporting for the Washington Post.
That’s based on a review of nearly 10,000 pages of federal emails, legal memos, presentations and other documents that watchdog group American Oversight had requested via the Freedom of Information Act. Included in the documents was a draft news release from the USPS about plans to distribute 650 million masks around the country. This would have amounted to around five face coverings per every American household. Not a bad plan given the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now calls on Americans to wear masks to prevent Covid-19 spread.
A news release meant that the plan was probably at its advanced stages. After all, you don’t tend to put together a press release until after you’re fairly sure something will happen. Otherwise, it would be a premature communication. Or a premature declaration. It would be a bit like preparing wedding announcements before even beginning to date someone. Or preparing buns when there are no hot dogs.
So why didn’t you get the masks? Because the plan never was fully implemented. Apparently the White House said something to the effect of “oh no you won’t” to the USPS. The Washington Post article quoted an administration official as saying, “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.” A concern about creating a concern? Now who would want to raise concern about a pandemic caused by a novel Covid-19 coronavirus that has now resulted over 198,000 deaths?
The following tweet contains what appears to be a copy of the draft press release, along with some sentiments and a subsequent typo correction from @donmoyn:
As you can see, the second tweet corrects the “facemarks” typo to “facemasks.” A plan to deliver postmarks to people’s faces would have been quite a different story, although not a completely surprising one for 2020.
According to the Washington Post article, the face masks eventually went to critical infrastructure sectors, companies, healthcare facilities, faith-based and community organizations, and schools across the country via Project America Strong. But it’s not completely clear over what time frame that occurred and why that should have precluded sending every household masks in April.
Imagine how things may have been different had the USPS moved forward with the face mask plan. Would more people have gotten accustomed to wearing face masks earlier? How many transmissions and infections could have been prevented?
A study published in Health Affairs in June estimated that fifteen states plus Washington, D.C., issuing face mask mandates between April 8 and May 15, 2020, was correlated with over 200,000 fewer Covid-19 cases as of May 22, 2020:
Of course, correlations and associations don’t prove cause-and-effect. But there are clear scientific reasons why face mask use could cut down the risk of you transmitting the virus to others.
Plus, would more widespread face mask use have done what the White House seemingly didn’t want to do: raise concern about the pandemic? If people had taken the pandemic more seriously, would they have taken social distancing and other prevention measures more seriously? Could this have prevented even more cases? Perhaps.
When it comes to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, you can’t just cover it up. Well, you can use a face mask to cover up your face, including your nose for Pete’s and everyone else’s sake. But you shouldn’t cover up the realities. During a public health emergency, you shouldn’t cover up what you “knows.” As of April, this virus had already proven that it can kill at a much higher rate than the flu. It also had already shown that it can cause suffering among those who survive the virus. The U.S. leads the other countries in the number of cases and deaths, which very super ultra strongly suggests that the national response has not been adequate. And those are problems that you can’t just mask.