Photo by Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images
Photo by Apu Gomes/AFP/Getty Images

President Donald Trump said Friday the CDC is advising that every person in the US wear a cloth mask or face covering in certain public settings to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Masks should be worn by all except infants “in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” such as grocery stores and pharmacies, CDC guidance reads. Masks are especially recommended in areas where Covid-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, has shown significant spread from person to person.

The new guidance is a big shift for the federal government, which previously declined, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and surgeon general, to recommend that most of the public wear a mask. Authorities previously only recommended masks for those who are sick and people, such as health care workers, who frequently interact with the sick.

The White House’s recommendation, based on new guidance from the CDC, only calls for people to use cloth masks, including homemade variants. The guidance is voluntary — and Trump immediately added at a press conference Friday that he would not be complying: “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I’m choosing not to do it.”

The recommendation does not mean you should go out and buy a traditional medical mask. Since there’s a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, for doctors and nurses, experts recommend that people don’t use the limited supply of medical masks, like surgical masks and N95 respirators, for themselves and instead leave those for health care workers.

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