The CDC now advises people wear cloth masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus — but Trump says he won't be wearing one

The CDC now advises people wear cloth masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus — but Trump says he won't be wearing one
President Donald J. Trump, joined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, left, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Stephan Monroe, associate director of the CDC, right, speaks with reporters during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday, March 6, 2020, in Atlanta. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now advising Americans to wear cloth face masks in public to reduce the chance of spreading Covid-19. But he sharply undercut the urgency of this recommendation, stressing in the White House briefing room that it was "voluntary" and remarking in an aside that he's unlikely to comply with the advice.


"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, reading from a script. "In light of these studies, the CDC is advising the use of non-medical cloth-based covering as an additional voluntary public health measure."

Then Trump, clear speaking off-the-cuff, added: "So it's voluntary! You don't have to do it. They suggest it for a period of time. But ... this is voluntary. I don't think I'm going to be doing it."

This follows reports that those around Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will be subject to rapid screening tests for the coronavirus to ensure their safety.

So instead of modeling what top health experts now believe to be a prudent safety measure, the president will be protected by a resource-intensive screening procedure even as the country still faces a dire shortage of tests.

It's not just Trump, though, who comes out of this development in a less-than-flattering light. The CDC and other health experts have been telling the public for months now that face masks were not advisable for the general public unless a person was already infected with the virus. Now they've totally flipped the script. It seems the old advice was based on thin evidence and, perhaps, a desire to reduce the demand for medical-grade person protective gear, which many argue should be preserved for front-line health care workers in times of shortages.

Watch the clips of Trump's remarks below:

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