"I don’t think I’m going to be doing it," the president said as he announced health officials' new guidelines on masks

By Sean Neumann
April 03, 2020 07:01 PM
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President Donald Trump

Federal health experts at the Centers for Disease Control are recommending Americans wear non-medical, cloth face masks if they go out in public, but on Friday, President Donald Trump said that he won’t be following the recommendation.

“The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump announced on Friday, immediately following up by saying, “It’s voluntary, so you don’t have to do it.”

“This is voluntary,” Trump, 73, said. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

The president’s announcement, and immediate dismissal, of health experts’ new guidelines came during Friday’s daily coronavirus press briefing at the White House.

U.S. health officials are asking that Americans wear masks made of cloth you can find around your home and that the new recommendation does not replace the government’s ongoing request that people follow social distancing rules, avoid public gatherings and stay six feet apart from others.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams reminded that “it’s very important that you wash your hands” before putting on a face mask.

“You don’t want to put on a face covering with a dirty hand,” Adams, 45, said. “Do not touch your face while you are wearing the face covering, because you could take materials from the surface and bring it to your face.”

Adams also recommended that if you do wear a face mask that you don’t use an N95 medical grade mask, which the government is still working to preserve for health care workers.

President Trump enters Friday’s coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.
| Credit: Win McNamee/Getty

The surgeon general admitted on Friday the CDC’s guidelines on face masks have “been confusing” for Americans, citing that federal health officials have adapted to new data throughout the pandemic, but that “new recommendations will come as the evidence dictates.”

On Thursday, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said newfound information that shows a heightened risk of people spreading the disease despite not showing cold-like symptoms forced health officials to change their stance on face masks, according to the New York Times.

Health officials previously said face masks did not help prevent spreading or contracting the COVID-19 respiratory disease, which the coronavirus causes.

Part of the reason health officials initially recommended individuals not to wear face masks was because of an effort to preserve that personal protective equipment for health workers who are treating patients directly, the Times reports.

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A number of states had already asked their citizens to wear face masks in public, such as New York, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois and others.

At least 6,660 people have died from the virus in the United States and there have been at least 258,611 confirmed cases as of Friday afternoon, according to a New York Times tracker.

“Every American has a role to play,” Vice President Mike Pence said Friday, moments after Trump said he would refuse to follow the CDC’s updated guidelines, himself.

“I just don’t want to wear one myself,” Trump told reporters, adding, “I don’t see it for myself. Maybe I’ll change my mind.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.