WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday announced new federal guidance that encourages Americans to use homemade cloth face coverings when in public, a new effort intended to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The guidance reflects a growing concern that individuals who don’t display coronavirus symptoms could still unknowingly transmit the disease while in public. Trump’s announcement matches a draft recommendation the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formulated Thursday, which urges Americans to use the cloth face coverings during trips to the grocery store and other public outings. The guidance, according to the CDC document, is intended not to guard the wearer but instead to prevent the wearer from unknowingly transmitting the virus to others.

“The CDC is recommending that Americans wear a basic cloth or fabric mask that can be either purchased online or simply made at home, probably [with] material that you’d have at home,” Trump said during a press briefing at the White House.

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The president emphasized that the guidance does not call for Americans to use surgical masks or N95 respirator masks, which officials hope to preserve for medical professionals and hospitals amid severe shortages in personal protective equipment.

Trump also stressed that the new recommendation on face coverings does not replace existing guidelines that urge Americans to stay home as much as possible, avoid social gatherings, and maintain 6 feet of distance between other people at all times. Deborah Birx, the physician helping to coordinate the Trump administration’s coronavirus response, expressed a similar concern on Thursday, arguing that widespread use of face coverings might lull some Americans into a false sense of security and cause many individuals to take social distancing measures less seriously.

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Trump, however, downplayed the recommendation.

“This is voluntary,” Trump said. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

The announcement comes as the coronavirus and Covid-19, the respiratory disease it causes, continue to spread through American cities. Early research shows that individuals who are infected with the coronavirus but haven’t yet displayed symptoms can still spread the virus. Public health experts hope that by using masks when venturing outside for grocery runs and other essential trips, individuals might be less likely to unknowingly transmit the virus.

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Such approaches have shown early success in some Asian countries that appear to have succeeded in beating back the virus, including Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Those countries’ approaches have relied largely on basic public health interventions including social distancing, widespread testing, isolating confirmed cases, and following and quarantining their contacts. But the general use of masks in some of those countries has also led to speculation that the masks helped bring the initial outbreaks under control.

Fearful of further straining an already limited supply, experts on all sides of the debate have stressed that the most protective of masks, like N95 respirators, be reserved for frontline health care workers. But from there, experts have disagreed whether everyday use of cloth masks or other forms of mouth and nose coverings are beneficial.

The World Health Organization has recommended that people who are sick, and those caring for them, wear masks. WHO officials have said that masks are only shown to be effective as a tool to block the spread from people who are infected to others, rather than a preventive tool for people who are not infected.

“The evidence is quite clear that the wearing of a mask in public doesn’t necessarily protect you,” Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO emergencies program, said during a Friday press briefing. “But if a sick person wears a mask, then it is less likely they may infect others. At the moment, and from a WHO perspective, people who are sick with Covid-19 should be in isolation.”

A new study published Friday in the journal Nature Medicine provided further evidence for mask wearing by people who are sick. Researchers at the University of Hong Kong found that surgical masks reduced the levels of some viruses — including influenza and the coronaviruses that cause the common cold — that were emitted by people compared to people who were not wearing them. The study did not include SARS-CoV-2, and it found that masks did not reduce the projection of rhinoviruses.

As evidence has mounted that people without symptoms can still transmit the coronavirus, some experts have called for the general public to wear masks as a preventive measure. WHO officials on Friday acknowledged the debate is ongoing, and the question is being studied. Ryan said the WHO will support governments as they make recommendations about masks.

But he added that such decisions need to be made in the context of the available resources and the level of spread in a community. He characterized homemade or cloth face coverings as one tool in a broader, more comprehensive strategy.

“That doesn’t negate the need for hand washing, it doesn’t negate the need for physical distancing, it doesn’t negate the need for people to stay at home if there’s a stay-at-home order in place, it doesn’t negate the need for everyone to protect themselves and to try to protect others,” Ryan said.

  • Continuation, Trump was right that you don’t have years to try it when it is life and death.

    But I am wondering why they are not trying the HIV combo that Thailand and Japan tried. Thailand had a low dead rate. It is true that HIV combo are expensive, but one cannot put a price on life.

    Malaria medicine can have the risk of affecting the eyes. But it is cheap. I would rather they try something will less side effect if the effectiveness is the same.

  • I can’t believe that nasty guy from CNN was asking the questions why Trumph is promoting the malaria medicine. Well let me tell you nasty CNN guy, shut up. I asked someone from a third world country and she said they found it to have some positive results on patient. People where buying in after Trump made it public, poor people who may not have the money to go to doctors and hospital. If Trump did not promote it, people in that third world country will not be aware. Unless you have another solution, shut up and stop being grumpy. Your attitude makes me what to cut any subscriptions from ATT since ATT own CNN.

    CNN needs to stop to just keep on political attack without offering solutions. I am not happy with the performance of this administration in handling the covid19 especially on the mask issue, but I want a solution not a political attack.

    So CNN guy on coronavirus press briefing please shut up. Trump is right, if it is life and death, it is better to try something than nothing. Even remdevisir is not 100 % working and their is very limited supply.

    CNN is also a culprit is what is going on. When the coronavirus was running rampant, instead of covering, their frontage is always the impeachment. It diverted people attention from coronavirus. CNN, do not pretend to be an angle when you also have blood in your hand.

  • I wonder if we could reopen society if everyone got a really good helmet style face shield and used it properly
    One of those things which go over your head and cover it completely, and you use the good face mask underneath, along with gloves, maybe googles, and of course continuing social distancing and hand washing.
    And arrangement like that would double-filter the air going in your mouth or nose.
    I would think it would cost no more than $50 or so and could be reusable or maybe you would replace cartridges once a day – something not prohibitive.

    With that, and overalls, and long gloves – all of those could also be washable except maybe one base layer of throwaway gloves – i would think we could end the shutdowns pretty safely. |

    Or, if they decide to, people could not use them, but as long at they are available to the vulnerable population, the rest of us do not need to be on lockdown.

    Of course it might be so contagious that nothing like that will work. They certainly have been telling us the N95 masks work, but on the other hand, we read about many healthcare workers getting infected. But unlike healthcare workers, people going to work or shopping in that protective gear can still maintain distance, not touch other people or many objects, etcetera.

    It could be that the shutdowns, rather than just being doctors freaking out and advising an entire country as they would advise a patient, are mainly to buy time while protective gear supply can be greatly increased. They have not been honest about the masks, apparently, so why assume they are giving us the whole story about other parts of this?

  • I made some home made mask out of bounty paper towels I used starch to make them tougher I sprayed them and ironed them 3 times.
    Will these help me?
    Thanks Delena

    • That is a bad idea when the starch get moist from your moisture from your breath, that would not work.

      Buy the surgical mask and wear two of them at the same time. It may not protect you than N95 but better than cloth as you don’t know how small the cloth materials you use can filter.

      At least if the inside get moist the outside may be spare from getting moist. Once it is moist virus can stick on the surface.

      You starch can also attract a lot of virus.

  • I highly recommend that you find an N95 equivalent mask to wear in public spaces especially if you are not maintaining at least a 5 meter distance from other humans who may be assympto carriers of SARS-COV2. Remember that the N95 is at best 95% efficient and probably more like 80% if worn over and over again. Remember that ER doctors and nurses are becoming infected even wearing N95 masks and face shields to keep the virions out of your eyes. There are much better respirator cartridge masks to protect full face available at Mine Safety Appliances or Scott Ampliances which are 99% efficient for airborne SARS-COV2 virions. It is up to you how to protect your health. Beware of copper infused cloth masks which cannot maintain a tight seal on your face allowing virion leakage. The copper may be bacteriostatic but does nothing to deactivate viruses like Coronavirus or Influenza virus or Rhinoviruses.

    • Does the copper infusion provide any mitigation at all? Compared to a commercially available, say dust mask, is there any merit at all to using copper infused fabric?

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