Ending what The Washington Post described as a “turf war” between the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over whether he should advise all Americans to wear facial masks in public, Donald Trump made exactly that recommendation Friday at the daily coronavirus task force press briefing.
However, the president quickly added that he did not plan on following the guidelines himself.
“This is voluntary,” Trump said, as seen in the video below. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
The CDC recommends that Americans wear the facial coverings — which do not need to be surgical-grade masks — in order to slow the spread of coronavirus because people who are infected but show no symptoms can nonetheless transmit the virus to others. The masks do not replace “social distancing,” which means that even with facial covering, individuals must continue to maintain a distance of six feet from others in public.
Despite his seeming refusal to wear a mask, Trump will be afforded some protection from coronavirus infection because, according to a CNN report, anyone who comes into “close proximity” to him will be quickly administered a test for the virus. But a statement by deputy administration press secretary Judd Deere gave no definition of what distance counts as “close proximity.”
Trump announces the CDC is now recommending people wear face coverings to stop spread of coronavirus, but then immediately says "I don't think I'm going to be doing it." pic.twitter.com/GRDLrNNJMD
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 3, 2020
Individuals who come into “close proximity” with Vice President Mike Pence will also be subject to rapid coronavirus testing, according to the White House announcement cited by the CNN report.
According to the Washington Post report, the announcement appears to represent a victory for the CDC over Trump’s advisers, who believed that the facial covering guidelines should apply only to people located in “hot spots” of the United States where the coronavirus outbreak has been most severe. The presidential advisers “worried that wide community use of masks is unnecessary and could cause panic,” as quoted by the outlet.
But CDC scientists believed that the mask-wearing guidelines would be ineffective unless they covered the broadest possible area. By recommending the masks be worn by all Americans, according to The Washington Post, CDC experts say that areas which currently have a low rate of infection can potentially avoid becoming “hot spots” themselves.
Despite Trump’s new comments about refusing to wear a mask, he did tell a reporter that she “oughtta be ashamed” of her “nasty tone” in asking a question about comments made by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, at Thursday’s briefing, according to a tweet from CNN reporter Daniel Dale.
At that briefing, Kushner claimed that the Strategic National Stockpile — a massive supply of medical equipment and supplies maintained by the government — was not intended for use by states. This claim was quickly debunked by media fact-checkers.