Trump, CDC Recommend Wearing Masks to Prevent Spread of COVID-19

July 15, 2020 Updated: July 15, 2020

President Donald Trump and the administration’s public health officials recommended that Americans wear masks when necessary, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Trump told CBS News in a July 14 interview that he encourages people to don facial coverings in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly bug, though he stopped short of supporting a nationwide mask-wearing mandate. CBS’s Catherine Herridge had asked the president if it should be left up to state governors on whether to impose mask requirements.

“They can have their own guidelines, but they go by the CDC guidelines and right now, that’s saying ‘wear a mask,’ and that’s OK with me, that’s good,” Trump said, referring to recommendations by health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Asked whether he would “urge Americans to wear a mask,” Trump replied, “If it’s necessary, I would urge them to wear a mask, and I would say follow the guidelines.”

Separately, public health officials on July 14 called on Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of the disease. In a press release, the CDC said it had reviewed the latest scientific data on mask-wearing and, on that basis, found that facial coverings are “a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.”

“We are not defenseless against COVID-19,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said. “Cloth face coverings are one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus—particularly when used universally within a community setting. All Americans have a responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attends an event about CCP virus vaccine development in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 15, 2020. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In an online interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Redfield said that if all Americans wore a mask, the rising cases of COVID-19 could be under control in a matter of weeks.

“I think if we can get everyone to wear masks right now, we can bring this under control within four, six, eight weeks,” Redfield said.

CDC officials wrote in an editorial in JAMA on July 14 that masks covering the nose and mouth could help prevent those with COVID-19 from spreading the disease to others.

“Covering mouths and noses with filtering materials serves two purposes: personal protection against inhalation of harmful pathogens and particulates, and source control to prevent exposing others to infectious microbes that may be expelled during respiration,” the authors wrote.

The authors noted that while the wearing of facial coverings is becoming more prevalent, they said there has been resistance. They acknowledged the objections to mask-wearing, including that homemade cloth coverings may be inferior to commercially produced ones, as well as the lack of research definitively proving the benefits of wearing masks.

Noting the difficulty of carrying out community-based randomized trials or even laboratory studies due to the challenge of handling a dangerous biosafety level 3 pathogen, the CDC urged wearing masks on the basis of a “precautionary principle.”

The CDC also said in the editorial that a new study shows that mask-wearing by health care workers and patients can help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“In the absence of such data, it has been persuasively argued the precautionary principle be applied to promote community masking because there is little to lose and potentially much to be gained,” the CDC said. “In this regard, the report by Wang et al provides practical, timely, and compelling evidence that community-wide face covering is another means to help control the national COVID-19 crisis.”

“At this critical juncture when COVID-19 is resurging, broad adoption of cloth face coverings is a civic duty, a small sacrifice reliant on a highly effective low-tech solution that can help turn the tide favorably in national and global efforts against COVID-19,” the CDC argued.

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