Sen. Bernie Sanders.
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- “It is an absolute scandal,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said about the lack of high-quality masks.
- Sanders wants to send three free N95 masks to every American.
- Health experts have long pleaded with federal officials to more forcefully say some masks are better than others.
Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for the federal government to provide every American with a free N95 mask, a renewed push that comes as the Omicron variant is overwhelming hospital systems and setting grim new records.
Sanders’ Masks for All Act, which he first introduced last year, would require the federal government to send every American a package of three N95 masks.
“As we face the rapidly spreading omicron variant, we should remember that not all face masks are created equal,” Sanders said in a statement. “It is an absolute scandal that in the richest country in the history of the world, high-quality masks are not more readily available to frontline workers, health care workers, and all Americans.”
The White House has shown that it is open to similar steps. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters earlier today that the administration is “actively exploring” ways to make higher quality masks more readily available to Americans, CNN reports.
N-95 masks and their international equivalents are considered the gold standard when it comes to protecting wearers from possible COVID-19 exposure.
Health experts have repeatedly called on the Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to update its masking guidance now that the early-pandemic supply shortages of N95 masks have abated. Dr. Lena Wen previously told Insider that cloth masks, which many people turned to earlier in the pandemic, are not good enough to protect against Omicron.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have shattered records as the latest variant spreads across the country. Hospitals are also dealing with staff shortages, which has only compounded the problem. Some health experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, have questioned whether these numbers best capture Americans whose hospitalization is directly related to COVID-19. Regardless, Fauci and others have warned that “just about everybody” will contract COVID as the highly contagious variant spreads.
The CDC is also showing signs that it may be bowing to growing pressure. CDC Director Rochelle said earlier that the agency is “preparing to update the information on our mask website.”
“@CDCgov continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask, and we encourage Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of #COVID19. That recommendation will not change,” Wallensky wrote on Twitter.
—Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH (@CDCDirector) January 12, 2022
Fifteen senators, all Democrats, are co-sponsoring Sanders’ legislation, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. More than 30 other House lawmakers are supporting a similar bill in that chamber.
Read the original article on Business Insider