The guidelines issued by the CDC, the government's public health advisory agency, came as the US reported more than 1,100 deaths in a single day - the highest total for a 24-hour period anywhere in the world.
All Americans should cover their faces with scarves or homemade cloth masks when they leave their homes as part of the desperate efforts to curb the massive spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, President Donald Trump has suggested.
Citing the latest recommendations from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Trump, who has decided not to wear a mask, urged people to wear face coverings like scarves or homemade cloth masks, and to keep medical-grade masks available for the health workers who are struggling to contain the growing number of COVID-19 cases.
The guidelines issued by the CDC, the government’s public health advisory agency, came as the US reported more than 1,100 deaths in a single day – the highest total for a 24-hour period anywhere in the world.
Senior officials at the CDC told the White House this week that stronger guidelines were necessary to prevent the virus from spreading between asymptomatic people, US media reported.
The US has so far confirmed 278,458 cases of Covid-19 and more than 7,100 deaths. New York state remains the worst hit area, with nearly 3,000 deaths.
The deadly coronavirus has so far infected over 1,131,000 people and claimed the lives of over 59,800 people across the world, according to latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University.
Until now, health authorities here said that only the sick, or those caring for patients of coronavirus, should wear masks, but newer studies suggest that covering up one’s face is important to prevent inadvertent transmission.
“From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood,” Trump said.
“The CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure,” Trump told reporters during a press briefing at the White House on Friday.
“The CDC is not recommending the use of medical-grade or surgical-grade masks. Those needs to be used for medical people working to save lives of Americans. Medical protective gear must be reserved for the front-line healthcare workers who are performing those vital services,” he said.
The CDC has recommended that Americans wear a basic cloth or fabric masks that can be either purchased online or simply made at home.
However, Trump said he will not follow that guidance.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself, it’s a recommendation,” he said.
“Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk, I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, dictators, kings, queens, I don’t know, I don’t see it for myself,” he said.
During the press conference, Trump stressed that the new masks guidelines do not replace CDC’s guidance on social distancing, including staying at home when possible, standing at least 6 feet apart for a period of time.
Based on the new available data, CDC said the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity–for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing–even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.
US surgeon general Dr Jerome Adams acknowledged the change in position had stoked some uncertainty.
“It has been confusing to the American people,” Adams said.
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.