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The US Postal Service prepared in April to announce a plan to deliver 650 million masks to Americans; it never happened

What if every American household had gotten five masks in April? Screens at the South Station Red Line stop earlier this month urged people to wear masks, among other things.
What if every American household had gotten five masks in April? Screens at the South Station Red Line stop earlier this month urged people to wear masks, among other things.Erin Clark / Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Leaders at the US Postal Service in April prepared a news release announcing a plan to distribute 650 million masks across the country, enough to provide five to every American household, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The document was never released, but it trumpets the mask plan and includes quotations from top USPS officials.

The document suggests that the government’s initial interest in using the Postal Service as part of its campaign to fight the coronavirus pandemic may have been far more advanced than initially reported this spring, the Post reported.

The news release was among nearly 10,000 pages of emails, legal memos, presentations and other documents obtained by the Post from American Oversight, a watchdog group that requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

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The documents, which mostly span March and April, portray an agency in distress. Its declining finances were colliding with a public-health emergency and an upcoming election that would rely heavily on absentee ballots., the Post reported

The news release was titled “U.S. Postal Service to Deliver Face Coverings to Every American Household," and a subheadline read, “Historic Delivery of 650 Million Face Coverings is in Partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Department of Health and Human Services and a Consortium of Textile Manufacturers,” according to a copy posted online by the Post.

The White House scrapped the plan, senior administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal deliberations, told the Post.

“There was concern from some in the White House Domestic Policy Council and the office of the vice president that households receiving masks might create concern or panic,” one administration official told the Post.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.


Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.