President Trump on Friday said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that Americans wear cloth or fabric face masks in public to help prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus—but quickly added that he won’t be wearing one.
During the coronavirus briefing on Friday—where no one appeared in a face mask—Trump repeatedly stressed that the recommendation from the CDC is “voluntary.”
“You don’t have to do it,” he insisted.
Explaining his own decision not to wear a face mask despite the CDC urging it, he said he can't imagine being seen in a mask while greeting “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens” in the Oval Office.
“I'm feeling good, I just don't want to be doing, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great resolute desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know somehow I don't see it for myself. I just don't. Maybe I'll change my mind.”
The reasoning behind the “voluntary” measure was because studies have shown the coronavirus can be transmitted by people who don’t have symptoms, Trump said, noting it was “playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood.”
The “basic cloth or fabric” masks could be purchased online or homemade, Trump said, and could be reusable. He made clear the CDC recommendation is not for “medical grade or surgical grade masks.”
Guidelines for social distancing and other moves still apply, Trump said.
“You can do it, you don’t have to do it,” Trump said. “I’m choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that’s OK. It may be good. Probably will.”
People have already taken to wearing masks while out in public at places like their local grocery store during the health crisis, though before Thursday there had been no nationwide guideline.
The new advice on Friday caused Surgeon General Jerome Adams to “unpack the evolution” of the mask guidance, noting that “it has been confusing to the American people.”
Adams emphasized that the CDC, the World Health Organization, and people involved in public health had earlier dissuaded the public from wearing masks because at that point “it was not deemed that that would have a significant impact on whether or not a healthy person wearing a mask would contract COVID-19.”
Having people with symptoms wear masks has always been recommended, Adams said. The recommendation changed because of studies showing “a significant portion” of people with the virus do not have symptoms.
Trump was recently pressed during his daily coronavirus task force briefings about whether the general public should also be wearing masks at a time where personal protective equipment shortages are deeply troubling the nation’s medical professionals.
Less than 24 hours ago, Trump’s coronavirus task force was expected to announce that it would be recommending the wearing of masks in public.
When asked if the public should be wearing masks, Trump avoided a direct answer Wednesday. Some people don’t like it, he said, “because you’re taking it away from the medical professionals.”
“I don’t see where it hurts,” Trump said at the time. “And it doesn’t have to be a mask. It can be a scarf. Scarf is highly recommended by the professionals. I don’t see where it hurts.”