The president added that the CDC did not recommend that the public use “medical grade or surgical grade masks,” which should be saved for medical workers.
Administration officials debated the recommendation for days, worried about the risk of sending mixed messages on public health and inadvertently encouraging hoarding of protective gear that health workers desperately need.
Public health experts have cautioned that homemade masks aren’t enough to protect the wearer from contracting the virus, although some studies suggest that they can prevent asymptomatic people from infecting others.
Senior Trump officials like Surgeon General Jerome Adams had previously urged Americans not to wear masks, saying it could increase disease spread by leading people to more frequently touch their faces to adjust the coverings.
But they began to rethink the recommendation this week in light of more data on the extent the virus is being spread by people not showing symptoms, Adams said at the White House briefing.
“In light of the new evidence, CDC recommends and the task force recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” Adams said. “These include places like grocery stores and pharmacies.”
He emphasized that wearing coverings is not a substitute for maintaining social distancing and following other guidelines to curb the virus’ spread.