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The White House is expected to urge Americans to begin wearing cloth masks or face coverings in public to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, in a reversal of its earlier recommendations, according to a federal official involved in the response.
The announcement could come as early as Thursday.
White House coronavirus task force officials have been considering whether to recommend that face coverings be routinely worn in public because of increasing evidence that infected people without symptoms can spread the virus, according to internal memos and new guidance provided to the White House by the CDC.
“In light of these new data, along with evidence of widespread transmission in communities across the country, CDC recommends the community use of cloth masks as an additional public health measure people can take to prevent the spread of virus to those around them,” according to the guidance, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.>According to the CDC and World Health Organization, only the sick, and their caretakers, should wear face masks. Research scientist Jeremy Howard disagrees. (Allie Caren/The Washington Post)
The recommendations represent a major change in official CDC guidance that healthy people don’t need masks or face coverings. The memos and guidance make clear the coverings under discussion are not medical masks, such as N95 respirators or surgical face masks, which are needed by front-line health-care workers and are in extremely short supply. Those must continue to be reserved for health-care workers and other first responders, they say.
The memos and guidance were drafted in recent days by the CDC and sent to officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House coronavirus task force for consideration of masks as an additional measure to slow the pandemic.