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White House to send 25 million masks to health centers, food pantries

White House to send 25 million masks to health centers, food pantries
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The White House announced Wednesday that it will send more than 25 million masks to community health centers and food pantries across the country in an effort to increase access for low-income people.

"Many low-income Americans still lack affordable access to this basic protection," White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Biden resists calls to give hard-hit states more vaccines than others Overnight Health Care: White House rebuffs call to send more vaccine doses to certain states | White House warns states to expect low weekly J&J vaccine shipments MORE said.

The shipments of washable cloth masks, beginning in March, will go to approximately 1,300 community health centers, as well as 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens.

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The plan stops short of sending masks to every American household, an idea floated during the Trump administration that never came to fruition.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden eyes bigger US role in global vaccination efforts Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech Kemp: Pulling All-Star game out of Atlanta will hurt business owners of color MORE has sought to put much more of an emphasis on mask-wearing than former President TrumpDonald TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech MORE, who mocked the idea on several occasions and rarely wore one.

The White House estimates 12 million to 15 million Americans will receive masks through this new $86 million program.

Asked why the Biden administration is taking a more targeted approach rather than sending masks to all Americans, Zients said wider distribution would have been a good idea last year, but that is no longer necessary.

"Months ago, sending a mask to every American would have been a good idea," he said. "Today, masks are widely available in many different shapes and sizes."

He said the effort to make them more available to low-income people is "an effort that focuses on people who may be particularly in need of the extra support."

"It's part of our equity strategy and central to that," he said.

--Updated at 11:50 a.m.