WASHINGTON — 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 the 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.ADVERTISING
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 at a time when 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 if Americans turn to private industry to meet the expected surge in demand.
Trump and other administration officials sought to minimize any burden by stressing the recommendations did not amount to requirements and a variety of homemade coverings were perfectly acceptable. Federal officials stressed that surgical masks and N95 respirators should be left for those on the front lines of fighting the spread of the infection.
Friday’s announcement capped an evolution in messaging from the White House that officials acknowledged has at times been confusing.
First lady Melania Trump embodied the ever-changing messaging with a tweet saying, “As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously.”
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.