“It’s going to be really a voluntary thing,” Trump said during a White House briefing with reporters.
“You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that's OK,” he said.
The new recommendation, issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is a reversal for the agency. At the beginning of the outbreak, the CDC said that healthy people did not need to wear masks because it would not protect them from contracting the disease.
But research released in recent weeks indicates people can have the virus, not show symptoms and unknowingly spread it to others. Wearing face coverings could help prevent that, the CDC stated in its recommendation.
“In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain,” the guidance reads, listing grocery stores and pharmacies as examples.
Coverings should “especially” be worn in areas with significant community-based transmission, the guidance states.
However, the CDC said people should not wear or purchase the surgical masks or N95 respirators because they are in short supply and needed for medical professionals.
The agency also stressed that wearing face coverings is not a replacement for social distancing measures, like staying at home when possible and staying six feet away from people outside of your household.
Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who is advising the White House on its coronavirus response, has been one of the most high-profile proponents of wearing face coverings, writing in a report this month that everyone should be encouraged to do it.
Trump repeatedly undercut the CDC's recommendation on Friday, saying he wouldn’t be wearing one because “I’m feeling good.”
“I just don't want to be doing that. I don't know. Somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, great Resolute Desk, I think and wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens. I don't see it for myself.”
He added that “maybe I’ll change my mind.”