In April, as the coronavirus pandemic was killing thousands of Americans and the U.S. surgeon general was teaching people how to make face masks with rubber bands, the United States Postal Service had come up with a plan to distribute 650 million masks, enough for five per house. USPS leaders had even drafted a press release ready to go out, according to nearly 10,000 pages of emails, memos and other USPS materials obtained by The Washington Post. But the White House scrapped the plan out of concern that “households receiving masks might create concern or panic,” an administration official told the Post. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services distributed 650 million reusable cotton masks to critical industries, healthcare facilities, schools, and community organizations.
The revelation comes days after journalist Bob Woodward released tapes of Trump admitting to downplaying COVID-19, which he later explained was a way of reducing panic. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that if more Americans had worn face masks earlier, “we’d bring this pandemic under control.”