Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Education provided an update on the school mask initiative in support of the President’s safe reopening of schools. Launched in September by HHS’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), the initiative is on track to distribute 125 million cloth masks to states and U.S. territories for distribution to schools by November 2020. These masks support students, teachers, and staff in public and private schools, with an emphasis on low-income or other high-needs students and schools providing in-person instruction.
“The President continues to support extraordinary measures to safely reopen America’s schools,” said Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. “The school mask program exemplifies the Administration’s on-going commitment to support states and territories as they limit the spread of COVID-19, while also ensuring that children, teachers, and school staff have essential resources that will keep them safe throughout the school year.”
To ensure masks are being sent to areas of most need, distribution plans were based on reporting from the National School Lunch Program. The 125 million masks were split evenly among adult and youth sizes.
As of this week, we have deployed over 110 million cloth masks to states and territories for distribution to areas of need. The distribution of adult-sized masks is complete; the child-sized masks are being distributed as soon as they are manufactured. Several states and U.S. territories have received full or partial shipments of youth-sized masks. The remaining youth-sized masks will be distributed by November.
Schools are an essential part of the community infrastructure. They empower children with the knowledge and skills needed for a fulfilling future. They provide safe supportive learning environments for students; employ teachers and other staff; and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to go to work.
“As the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education I have had the opportunity to visit schools across America—both in person and in virtual form,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Frank Brogan. “I continue to be impressed with the many strategies employed in all of these schools dedicated to ensuring a safe return of their students, faculty and staff, including the appropriate use of masks. I encourage state and local education agencies to not only utilize the masks provided by this program but to also utilize the nearly $13 billion in resources provided by the CARES Act which can be used to purchase personal protective equipment. These unspent resources could help to ensure kids and teachers can safely return to the classroom.”
For more information on the President’s school mask program, visit the ASPR website. For more information about how the cloth masks are being distributed, view the state-by-state distribution plan.
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