President Joe Biden's COVID-19 response team announced Wednesday it would make 25 million masks available to Americans at community health centers and food banks.
"We will deliver more than 25 million masks across the country. These masks will be available in more than 1300 community health centers, and at 60,000 food pantries nationwide. Any American who needs a mask will be able to walk into these health centers or food pantries and pick up high quality American made masks," White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said.
"These masks will be available at no cost. There'll be well-fitting cloth masks available in children's and adult sizes, and they can be washed for reuse," Zients said, with "all consistent with CDC guidance and all made in the USA."
"The action we're announcing today is a targeted step to help Americans respond to the president's challenge to mask up to protect themselves and their fellow Americans, as we encourage people to continue to mask up. We're focused on vaccinating people, quickly, and equitably," he said.
"Not all Americans are wearing masks regularly. Not all Americans have access and not all masks are equal. With this action, we are helping to level the playing field, giving vulnerable populations quality, well-fitting masks," he said.
Throughout his first month in office and before taking on the roll, Biden has urged Americans to continue mask use to curb the spread of the virus.
During a town hall with African American front-line workers Tuesday, Biden previewed the administration’s move, and lamented the politicization of masks during the Trump administration in light of the U.S. reaching the milestone of 500,000 COVID deaths.
"We could have saved literally an awful lot of lives if people had listened. We turned wearing masks into a political statement. If you were for this thing, you wore it. If you were for somebody else, you didn't wear it. When in fact, it's just plain basic science -- science," Biden said.
The masks will be delivered by Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Department of Defense starting in March through May, the White House said in a press release.
“As a result of these actions, an estimated 12 to 15 million Americans will receive masks. More than 25 million masks total will be distributed,” the administration said in the release.
Karen Travers reports for ABC News Radio: