Coronavirus: Melania Trump calls for everyone to wear a mask but president insists 'I'm choosing not to'

CDC now recommends people wear cloth or fabric masks in public

Alex Woodward
New York
Friday 03 April 2020 19:02
Trump says he won't be following advice to wear a face mask

Moments after Donald Trump said he's "choosing not to" wear a face mask in public despite new guidance from federal health officials, his wife Melania Trump urged Americans to do so.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending Americans wear cloth masks — not medical grade or surgical masks — in public to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Trump said "medical protective gear must be reserved for the frontline health workers" but added "I don't think I'll be doing it."

He said: "It's only a recommendation ... I'm choosing not to do it."

The First Lady said on Twitter: "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone - we can stop this together."

Mr Trump said: "I just don't want to wear one myself ... I'm feeling good."

He then pictured himself behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office greeting kings, queens and dictators while wearing a mask: "I don't know. I don't see it for myself. ... Maybe I'll change my mind."

Despite the president saying he's "feeling good" and has been tested for the virus, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the initial recommendation — that people do not need to wear masks if they are asymptomatic — follows evidence that people who do not present symptoms are not necessarily safe from spreading the virus.

The new CDC recommendations suggest Americans wear cloth or fabric masks, which can be made at home, despite telling people for weeks that wearing masks could be doing more harm than good.

On 29 February, the surgeon general urged people to "stop buying masks" and said they're "not effective" to prevent transmission.

In an interview with Fox & Friends a few days later, he said: "You can increase your risk of getting [Covid-19] by wearing a mask if you are not a health care provider ... Folks who don't know how to wear them properly tend to touch their faces a lot and actually can increase the spread of coronavirus."

On Friday, the surgeon general said the reversal "has been confusing to the American people."

He urged that people wear masks in places where it's difficult to avoid interacting with other people, like at grocery stores.

Officials also stressed that the new guidance does not replace "social distancing" guidelines but is in addition to those recommendations.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said: "We have a powerful tool, a powerful weapon. That is social distancing."

He said the CDC believes there are many more "asymptomatically people who are infected than we previously thought," and suggested masks can mitigate someone unknowingly spreading the virus to someone else.

But as recently at this week, officials have been hesitant to endorse the incoming guidelines.

Dr Deborah Birx, among health officials on the White House coronavirus task force, said she was concerned that the masks could compel a false sense of security while the distancing guidelines — which have been extended to at least the end of April — are still in place.

She said on Thursday: "We don't want people to feel like, 'Oh, I'm wearing a mask, I'm protected and I'm protecting others.'"

Dr William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, has said that a "do-it-yourself" option of a mask or bandanna "may be the best we can do at this point" without universal access to medical grade masks, which officials, hospitals and health workers have urged be used only by care providers, facing desperate shortages of critically needed personal protective equipment, from masks and N95 filter-equipped respirators to hospital gowns.

More than 270,000 people in the US have tested positive for the virus, which has killed at least 7,077 people in the country.

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