The United States Postal Service drafted an ambitious proposal in April to send a pack of five face masks to every residential address in the U.S. before top White House officials killed the idea, according to an analysis by the Washington Post of documents acquired by the watchdog organization American Oversight.
American Oversight, which obtained over 9,000 pages related to the USPS via the Freedom of Information Act, released the documents in late August. One of the records, entitled “U.S. Postal Service to Deliver Face Coverings to Every American Household,” is a draft of a press release indicating that USPS planned to “distribute 560 million reusable cotton face masks on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to every residential delivery point in America, beginning in areas which HHS has identified as experiencing high transmission rates of COVID-19 and to workers providing essential services throughout the nation during this pandemic.”
Composed in April, the draft stated that “letter carriers, rural carriers and others will deliver one pack of five face coverings to each residential delivery point and PO Box,” with the first shipments intended to reach residents that month. The Orleans and Jefferson parishes of Louisiana were targeted for delivery first, followed by Washington’s King County, Michigan’s Wayne County, and New York.
The draft was never finalized due to the White House axing the plan, the Washington Post reported, citing senior administration officials who asked to be anonymous.
“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 of the officials told the Post.
As an alternative, HHS instituted “Project: America Strong,” a system that has seen about 600 million masks distributed to critical infrastructure companies, hospitals and community groups, rather than individuals.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House also utilized the postal service to send out a postcard prominently displaying Donald Trump’s name with guidelines for good hygiene and social distancing ― a decision that Accountable.US, another nonprofit watchdog, lambasted due to the president publicly downplaying both these guidelines and the danger of the coronavirus at the time. Though the postcard went out in March to about 138 million addresses, the White House has yet to repay USPS for the $28 million cost of printing and distributing the cards.
In August, Trump seemingly admitted that he was intentionally blocking funding for the USPS, which is expected to see a torrent of mail-in ballots ahead of the November presidential election. The president has been propagating conspiracy theories against mail-in voting, claiming that it leads to “ballot harvesting” and “voter fraud.”