President recommends wearing face masks in public

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with energy sector business leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Friday, April 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Stresses this is an optional recommendation.

Posted: Apr 3, 2020 5:01 PM
Updated: Apr 3, 2020 7:04 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced new federal guidelines Friday recommending that Americans wear face coverings when in public to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus. The president immediately said he had no intention of following that advice himself, saying, “I'm choosing not to do it."

The new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people, especially in areas hit hard by the spread of the coronavirus, to use rudimentary coverings like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks to cover their faces while outdoors.

The president exempted himself from his administration's own guidelines, saying he could not envision himself covering his face while sitting in the Oval Office greeting world leaders.

“It's a recommendation, they recommend it," Trump said. “I just don't want to wear one myself.”

The new guidance, announced as states are bracing for critical shortfalls like those that other parts of the world have experienced, raises concern that it could cause a sudden run on masks.

Trump and other administration officials sought to minimize any burden by stressing the recommendations did not amount to requirements and that a variety of homemade coverings were acceptable. Federal officials said that surgical masks and N95 respirator marks should be left for those on the front lines of fighting the spread of the infection.

Friday's announcement capped an evolution in guidance from the White House that officials acknowledged has at times been inconsistent.

“I want to unpack the evolution of our guidance on masks because it has been confusing to the American people,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams.

Adams, who had repeatedly and publicly advised against the need for face coverings, said Friday that although and he other public health experts initially believed wearing a mask would not have a substantial impact on curbing the spread, the latest evidence makes clear that people who don't show any symptoms can nonetheless pass on the virus.

“We have told you that from the beginning that we are evolving our recommendations, and new recommendations will come as the evidence dictates," Adams said.

First lady Melania Trump embodied the contradictory messaging with a tweet endorsing the new guidance even as her husband chooses to disregard it.

“As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously," she tweeted.

The administration has said states should have done more to stockpile medical supplies, but it's not clear if anyone is prepared for the potential rush that could ensue if people try to obtain medical masks for themselves.

In rural Florida, Okeechobee Discount Drugs has been sold out of face masks for almost two weeks, and “we don’t know where you can find any masks at this point,” said Stacey Nelson, one of the pharmacy’s owners.

“It’s very hard to get these products, but people want them,” Nelson said. “They’ve been getting mixed messages and people aren’t sure if they should be wearing masks in our daily lives. It’s very confusing. Wear them, or don’t wear them?”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

In fashioning the recommendations, the administration appears to be striving to balance political concerns about wanting to preserve as much normalcy as possible with public health concerns that some infections are being spread by people who seem to be healthy.

The White House has faced pushback against rigorous social distancing guidelines from states with lesser rates of infection. For the hardest-hit areas, where social distancing has already been in place for some time, the White House coronavirus task force thought there would be less risk of people ignoring the other guidance if they covered their faces.

The CDC is recommending that people wearing cloth face coverings in public places, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, where “other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain." The guidance especially applies “in areas of significant community-based transmission.”

The White House task force was debating into Friday on the final language of the CDC guidance. CDC scientists wanted to make it national guidance, believing that would do more to slow the spread of the virus.

White House advisers, including Dr. Deborah Birx, wanted to limit the guidance to virus hot spots. Birx said Thursday that she feared wider guidance would lead to a false sense of security for Americans and cause them to back away from more critical social distancing.

In the end, they found a middle ground: a national advisory with special emphasis that those in hard-hit areas should wear masks. Two people familiar with the discussions outlined the internal debate, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to describe it publicly.

As with other public health guidance, the recommendation on face covering has been a moving target for the administration. Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks.

Adams wrote on Twitter at the end of February that people should “STOP BUYING MASKS" and said they were not effective in protecting the general public.

On Monday, he noted that the World Health Organization does not recommend masks for healthy members of the population. Three days later, he tweeted that though there remains “scant" evidence that wearing a mask, especially improperly, can protect the wearer, “emerging data suggests facial coverings may prevent asymptomatic disease transmission to others."

Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies chief, on Friday acknowledged a “very important and very healthy debate” about how masks are used.

“We still believe the main driver of this pandemic is symptomatic (transmission),” he said, not people who may be infected but aren’t showing symptoms.

“We can certainly see circumstances in which the use of masks — but homemade or cloth masks — at the community level may help in an overall comprehensive response to this disease,” Ryan said.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 770246

Reported Deaths: 8661
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1537491923
Ramsey63444980
Dakota57071526
Anoka54052520
Washington33690331
Stearns28419253
St. Louis23735361
Scott21652160
Wright21388171
Olmsted18144120
Sherburne15515115
Carver1366556
Clay1025399
Rice9985131
Blue Earth966659
Crow Wing9518109
Chisago837263
Kandiyohi835197
Otter Tail8061105
Benton7477111
Beltrami658079
Mower645541
Douglas629190
Goodhue619985
Itasca618885
Winona611854
McLeod595770
Steele585825
Isanti573074
Morrison557767
Becker534862
Polk512879
Freeborn487642
Nobles481652
Lyon456356
Carlton446866
Nicollet434454
Pine428532
Cass425745
Mille Lacs416967
Brown411547
Todd400036
Le Sueur386332
Meeker356854
Waseca327331
Martin326336
Wabasha29538
Hubbard292744
Dodge273510
Roseau265227
Fillmore243812
Redwood240443
Wadena238429
Houston231117
Renville228549
Faribault220630
Pennington217227
Sibley211612
Cottonwood197128
Kanabec192230
Chippewa190340
Aitkin184043
Watonwan171112
Pope16148
Yellow Medicine157220
Rock155319
Jackson147315
Koochiching138619
Clearwater136618
Murray135011
Swift134619
Marshall134520
Pipestone133427
Stevens124911
Lake109521
Wilkin102814
Lac qui Parle98524
Mahnomen90312
Norman8789
Big Stone7974
Grant7869
Lincoln7845
Kittson61122
Red Lake5899
Unassigned538124
Traverse5165
Lake of the Woods4764
Cook2460

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 474151

Reported Deaths: 6785
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk74657729
Linn29194394
Scott24733274
Black Hawk20335358
Woodbury19207244
Johnson17988100
Dubuque15834229
Pottawattamie14276200
Dallas14109108
Story1288551
Warren774296
Cerro Gordo6951110
Webster6950111
Clinton6929101
Des Moines667594
Marshall641885
Muscatine6352113
Wapello5936137
Jasper578279
Lee565689
Sioux565676
Marion508191
Buena Vista491746
Plymouth463487
Henry389847
Jones370861
Washington366856
Benton359257
Bremer357168
Boone350937
Carroll346353
Crawford339347
Mahaska322856
Dickinson301052
Clay279133
Buchanan279039
Jackson273546
Kossuth271873
Hardin270249
Tama264976
Fayette260649
Delaware258546
Cedar249526
Page249328
Wright243645
Hamilton233954
Winneshiek233338
Floyd221845
Harrison217777
Madison216925
Clayton214558
Poweshiek211741
Iowa208029
Butler206638
Cass201557
Jefferson201040
Mills199929
Allamakee194753
Cherokee193844
Lyon192941
Hancock187639
Winnebago186633
Calhoun186116
Appanoose180850
Shelby178439
Louisa171052
Grundy168537
Humboldt167727
Emmet167146
Franklin164628
Mitchell164043
Union162637
Chickasaw159318
Sac157924
Guthrie155434
Montgomery142342
Palo Alto142032
Clarke141328
Keokuk139635
Monroe134335
Howard128222
Ida118641
Greene116315
Davis115225
Lucas113724
Pocahontas111423
Monona108738
Worth10818
Adair105335
Osceola94017
Fremont86111
Van Buren84221
Decatur82612
Taylor79713
Wayne74824
Ringgold67727
Audubon66814
Adams5095
Unassigned380
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