WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Several Democratic lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to increase the available supply of higher quality face masks and better educate the public about their benefits to combat the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) joined Representatives Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) urging Biden to consider “invoking the Defense Production Act to increase the supply of higher quality masks, including N95 or other medical grade masks.”
The lawmakers also suggested the United States Postal Service play a larger role in delivering personal protective equipment to Americans.
“Distribute the high quality medical-grade masks available via the United States Postal Service and make them accessible for safe pick-up at convenient locations in local communities,” they said.
While masks and face coverings have been recommended by health professionals for months to reduce the spread of the disease, it’s believed N95 or similarly protective masks make it less likely the wearer will be infected.
Dr. James McDonald, medical director of Rhode Island’s Department of Health, told NewsNation affiliate WPRI in January it remains difficult for the general public to find medical-grade N95 masks.
“I doubt you can find medical-grade N95 masks and quite frankly, that’s OK. Leave them for those working in the hospital,” McDonald said.
But he said K95 masks “are readily available and have been so for months now.”
The lawmakers’ letter also asked the administration to “prioritize educating Americans about higher quality masks and explore options to make them readily and freely available.”
Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician at UCSF, recently worked with a virus transmission expert on a medical commentary on the principles of the importance of face masks, and the data supporting double-masking or wearing higher-quality masks.
“It is what we just wrote about, surgical masks block the virus electrostatically. It’s almost like electrical pulsion, and then the cloth mask blocks it in the fibers and it can’t get through, and putting those two together are as effective as an N95,” Gandhi told NewsNation affiliate KRON.
Biden has promised to deliver 100 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office.
The United States has had more than 26 million cases of COVID-19 and 441,000 associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.