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Anthony Fauci wears a protective mask while listening to President Biden. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration announced Wednesday it will send more than 25 million masks to more than 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in order to reach some Americans most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Why it matters: Many studies show wearing tightly fit masks, and even double-masking, is effective to curb the spread of COVID-19 when social distancing is not possible.

Details: Masks will be free to recipients, made out of well-fitting cloth in children's and adult sizes and can be washed for reuse.

  • The federal government will pay $86 million for the American-made masks.
  • The administration is taking the more targeted move to send to vulnerable populations after considering whether to send masks to all Americans, a notion that’s been shelved for now, Bloomberg first reported.

The big picture: Despite declines in coronavirus cases and deaths and increased vaccine intake across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still urges Americans to wear masks.

What they're saying: "Months ago, sending a mask to every American would have been a good idea," Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus coordinator, said in a press conference.

  • "Today, masks are widely available in many different shapes and sizes, yet still not all Americans are wearing masks regularly and not all masks are equal. Many Americans need access to a mask that provides effective protection," he added.

Go deeper

For children, the COVID surge isn't over

Expand chart
Data: Department of Health & Human Services, University of Minnesota COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project, and Zach Levin; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Children's hospitals across the country say they're still seeing a surge of kids suffering from a serious illness that typically follows coronavirus infections.

The big picture: Severe coronavirus infections in children remain extremely rare, compared to the risk to adults. But persistent side effects from those infections mean that kids' hospitalization rates don't exactly mirror adults'.

Updated Feb 24, 2021 - Health

FDA analysis finds Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and effective

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration's staff released a briefing document on Wednesday endorsing Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine as safe and effective.

The latest: Assuming the FDA issues an emergency use authorization "without delay," meaning as soon as this weekend, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said J&J will have 3 million to 4 million ready for distribution next week.

Feb 24, 2021 - Health

What the post-pandemic new normal may look like

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Public health experts generally agree that the coronavirus is here to stay — which raises the question of when the pandemic will be over, The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal writes.

Why it matters: It's highly unlikely that the U.S. will vaccinate enough people to completely eradicate the virus, and even more unlikely that this will happen worldwide. That means that we have to decide what level of risk we want to live with.