APRIL 2, 2020
(Pictured) A woman walks her dog under the marquee at The Anthem music venue reading “We’ll Get Thru This” referring to the battle against the coronavirus pandemic in Washington D.C on April 2.
President Donald Trump is preparing to encourage Americans to wear face coverings, the latest effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to three individuals with knowledge of the planned announcement.
Trump’s planned guidance — which two officials said is imminent but not yet finalized — would encourage Americans to use homemade coverings, like cloth masks, scarves or bandannas, when outside the home. Health experts believe that the practice, which is common in nations like Singapore and Japan but unusual in the United States, would reduce the risk of individuals not exhibiting symptoms spreading the disease.
A senior White House official confirmed the planned guidance, but said it would be targeted to Americans in places where the virus is being actively spread and would not apply to everyone. The policy will not be announced on Thursday, the official said.
Officials have spent days debating the planned recommendation, worried about the risk of sending mixed messages on public health, draining health workers’ supplies and giving Americans a false sense of security. Experts have cautioned that homemade masks are insufficient to protect the wearer from contracting the coronavirus.
Senior Trump officials had previously warned Americans not to wear masks, insisting that the practice could even increase the risk of contagion by leading people to more frequently touch their faces to adjust the coverings. Administration officials also had been worried that it would lead to hoarding, exacerbating shortages of protective equipment that health workers desperately need.
“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted on Feb. 29. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
But Adams on Wednesday said that the administration was rethinking its guidance. “We’ve asked the CDC to take another look at whether or not having more people wear masks will prevent transmission of the disease to other people,” Adams said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
A senior official said the White House’s position evolved in light of more data about the extent that the virus is being spread by asymptomatic individuals. Officials also plan to stress that wearing masks is not a substitute for maintaining social distancing and following other guidelines to curb the virus’ spread.
Stat News first reported Trump’s planned guidance.