President Donald Trump said the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention is recommending the use of non-surgical grade cloth masks as a voluntary measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“It’s only a recommendation,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday, adding that the suggestion doesn’t replace guidance on social distancing. “It’s voluntary.”
The announcement marks a reversal for health officials, who’d previously said that those without symptoms didn’t need to wear a mask. Trump said the CDC isn’t recommending the use of commercial medical-grade masks, which are in short supply at hospitals.
Officials in New York City, the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., and in California’s Bay Area on Thursday told residents they should cover their faces when they are outside.
More than 266,600 people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus and more than 6,800 have died, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Public-health authorities and researchers have been racing to understand how the coronavirus spreads. A growing body of research suggests that small, virus-laden droplets of spit or mucus from a cough, sneeze or even talking could linger in the air, creating a source of infection that circumvents hand-washing and surface cleaning. There is also more evidence that people without symptoms could be causing infections.
Scientists originally believed that the risk of infections came mainly from droplets produced when an infected person coughed or sneezed. Recent research suggests that the virus may also be aerosolized when a patient exhales.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said wearing masks could help prevent asymptomatic people from spreading coronavirus. He told reporters at the White House that people should consider wearing them in pharmacies and drug stores.
Trump told reporters he doesn’t plan to wear a mask as he meets with people at the White House. The president has repeatedly tested negative for the virus.
He said the coverings can be home-made or purchased online, Trump said. He said Americans shouldn’t try to obtain medical masks.
“Medical protective gear must be reserved for the front-line health care workers who are performing those vital services,” Trump said.
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In This Story: Donald Trump
This story features US President Donald Trump. Donald John Trump is the 45th and current president of the United States. Before entering politics, he was a businessman and television personality. See more Donald Trump news here.