Trump says CDC advises cloth masks to protect against coronavirus, but he will not wear one

Key Points
  • Trump says the CDC now recommends using a cloth face covering to protect against coronavirus.
  • The president says the new guidelines are voluntary, and he will not wear one.  
  • The CDC advises that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
President Trump on his battle with 3M

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said the Centers for Disease Control now recommends using a cloth face covering to protect against coronavirus, but said he does not plan to do so himself. 

Speaking at a White House news conference on Friday, Trump stressed that the recommendations were merely voluntary, not required. "I don't think I'm going to be doing it" he said as he announced the new guidance. 

Responding to a question about why he had chosen not to follow the recommendations he himself was announcing, Trump said, "I'm feeling good. I just don't want to be doing -- somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful resolute desk, the great resolute desk, i think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know, somehow I don't see it for myself. I just don't. Maybe I'll change my mind."

Trump has faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for downplaying of the seriousness of the pandemic, although his tone has changed in the past week as U.S. cases have soared past a quarter of a million. Still, his decision to flout the CDC's guidelines is likely to draw further criticism from public health experts.

The CDC's website explained that the recommendations were updated following new studies that some infected people can transmit the coronavirus even without displaying symptoms of the disease.

"In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain," such as in grocery stores or pharmacies, "especially in areas of significant community-based transmission," the CDC says.

The CDC now recommends people wear masks outdoors

New York state remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, with at least 102,863 confirmed cases and at least 2,935 deaths.

The CDC said that cloth face coverings can be made at low cost from household items as an additional measure. The coverings are not a replacement for other social distancing measures when in public, such as maintaining six feet away from other people, the CDC said.

The agency also noted that the coverings it recommends people wear "are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators."

"Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders," the new guidance says.

Moments after Trump announced he would not wear a mask, First Lady Melania Trump tweeted out a request that all Americans use them. The two conflicting messages underscored the disconnect between the president's personal messages and those coming from the rest of his administration. 


Following Friday's press briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar issued a statement about the new guidance. In it, he said "President Trump has relied on the advice of America's best scientists throughout this crisis, and that science-based approach drove our new guidance around face coverings." 

Azar did not address the fact that the president will not be following this new guidance. 

Trump has previously recommended people wear scarves over their face, rather than respirators, which are in short supply and desperately needed by health-care workers for protection when tending to infected patients.

Experts have said there is little evidence to suggest covering one's face with a scarf, bandana or other material will offer protection from the coronavirus. Doctors told CNBC that while cloth coverings might prevent some secretions from being passed on to other people, they might also make people more likely to touch their faces. They could also engender a "false sense of security," doctors said, which could lead people to disregard other preventative measures that are more established.