WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is advising people to start wearing face masks in public to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a reversal on previous guidance that urged people not to wear masks.
President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are strictly voluntary. “You can do it – you don’t have to do it. It’s only a recommendation.”
Trump repeatedly stressed it is voluntary. “I don’t think i’m going to be doing it,” he said.
Trump stressed that the CDC is not calling for Americans wear medical-grade masks. Medical protective gear must be preserved for health care officials who are on the front lines treating coronavirus patients, he said.
For months, the federal government has recommended that the general public not wear masks, in part to help preserve them for health care workers. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until now has said the general public did not need to wear masks unless they came into contact with coronavirus patients or if they were sick.
“CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms,” the previous CDC guidance said.
In a Thursday press conference, Trump signaled that the guidance would soon be changing.
“I don’t think they’ll be mandatory because some people don’t want to do that,” Trump said. “If people wanted to wear them, they can. If people wanted to use scarves they can.”
At the end of February, the surgeon general’s Twitter account put out an all-caps plea to Americans to “STOP BUYING MASKS” because they were “NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus.”