The Biden administration has unveiled a contest offering $500,000 in prizes for new and improved mask designs "for general public use," sparking questions over how long the administration expects folks to wear facial coverings as vaccinations rise.
What are the details?
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that the agency "launched an innovation challenge competition, encouraging American inventors to aid the nation's COVID-19 response by designing effective, comfortable face masks for personal use that resolve the common concerns people have about wearing masks" such as "fogged glasses" and "difficulty speaking through face coverings."
Submissions for the contest are due by April 21, and up to 10 winners will be eligible to receive $10,000 prizes in the first phase. Up to "5 winners will be selected to split a total $400,000 prize purse" in the second phase.
The Daily Mail asserted that the Biden administration's mask contest being rolled out in conjunction with a $10 million campaign promoting vaccinations is sending a mixed message to Americans.
The outlet reported:
The CDC along with other health experts and organizations claim that total vaccination will end the need for face coverings and social distancing used over the last year to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It's unclear why Biden is looking to improve masks if they will likely no longer be needed once Americans are vaccinated and the administration's goal of a return 'normalcy' remains July 4, 2021.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has urged governors and local leaders who have lifted mask mandates to re-implement them, as some states such as Michigan, New Jersey, and New York have seen upticks in cases.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said this week that she is "scared" about the numbers she is seeing in COVID-19 cases, and warned of "impending doom" while asking the public to "just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can, so that all of those people that we all love will still be here when this pandemic ends."
She reiterated that message on MSNBC, telling host Rachel Maddow that CDC data "suggest that vaccinated people do not carry the virus," adding:
"We are oh-so-very close. The president announced today 90% of Americans will be eligible for a vaccine by April 19th, and 90% of Americans will be within five miles of a vaccination site by April 19th. Extraordinary measures to get to where we need to be, so we're just asking people to wear masks for just a bit longer."
Maddow noted, "It's three weeks 'till hitting those benchmarks."
'We Know That These Masks Work': Absent New OSHA Rules, CDC Stresses Masks At Work | Rachel Maddow www.youtube.com