US President Donald Trump said Friday his administration was now recommending Americans wear “non-medical cloth” face coverings, a reversal of previous guidance that suggested masks were unnecessary for people who weren’t sick.
Trump said the recommendations, which came after a week of heated deliberations inside the White House, were voluntary and that he would not partake.
“I don’t think I’m going to be doing it,” he said, going on to suggest it was hard to envision such a thing in the Oval Office: “Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I just don’t see it.”
After weeks of insisting Americans should not wear face masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus — and even suggesting their use could increase the chance of infection — administration officials this week engaged in an internal debate over reversing course, according to people familiar with the matter.
Speaking at the White House briefing on Friday, the US surgeon general acknowledged the change in position had stoked some uncertainty.
“It has been confusing to the American people,” Dr. Jerome Adams said, as reported by CNN. He described the change as spurred by new information suggesting people without symptoms may account for a significant amount of transmission.
The guidelines, Adams said, would suggest Americans wear cloth face masks in public settings where social distancing guidelines are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores.