The White House apparently spent a lot of time in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis trying to avoid creating panic.
Last week, President Trump's March interview with Bob Woodward revealed he'd deliberately tried to "play down" the COVID-19 threat despite knowing it was "deadly stuff." A concrete example of that attitude came in April, when the White House dropped a plan to send masks to every American household because it wanted to avoid "concern or panic," an administration official tells The Washington Post.
In the early days of the pandemic, the United States Postal Service drafted a news release touting a "historic delivery of 650 million face coverings" it was planning to deliver in partnership with the White House coronavirus task force. It would've been enough to provide five masks to every American household. The masks would first go to areas the Department of Health and Human Services "has identified as experiencing high transmission rates of COVID-19" and to essential workers, the news release said. The first shipments to parts of Louisiana, Michigan, New York, and Washington were expected in April.
But the news release never got sent out, and neither did the masks. That's because the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president feared "households receiving masks might create concern or panic," an administration official told the Post. Instead, it sent those reusable masks to "critical infrastructure sectors, companies, healthcare facilities, and faith-based and community organizations across the country" via a different HHS program.
While masks are now available almost everywhere, they were hard to come by for weeks as manufacturers reworked their supply chains to produce them. Meanwhile, some Americans still refuse to wear masks, and the president is rarely seen in one. Read more at The Washington Post.