After reports surfaced that the Trump administration would soon recommend many Americans to wear masks when out in public, the president was asked about the possibility during his daily coronavirus briefing.
"I think they’re going to be coming out with regulations on that,” President Trump said in response to a question about masks.
The president held off on officially making a recommendation, but Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said it’s being discussed.
“We want to be sure everyone understands it is not a substitute for the presidential guidelines that have come out, and we want to be clear about that,” Birx said of any possible recommendations.
Behind the debate is the fear that by wearing masks, Americans might be more laid back with social distancing and hand washing.
"We don’t want people to get an artificial sense of protection because they’re behind a mask," Birx said. "If you’re touching things and then touching your eyes, you’re exposing yourself in the same way.”
Another concern is availability. As healthcare workers currently deal with a lack of protection, a run on masks would make matters worse.
"If there are masks that individuals are making, I think that’s a fabulous thing if you want to wear them," said Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box. "But right now we don’t have enough masks to mask all 6.6 million Hoosiers."
Instead of just masks, officials might instead suggest covering your face with clothing like a t-shirt, bandana or a scarf.
"If people wanted to use scarfs which they have, many people have them, they can," said Trump. "In many cases the scarf is better. It’s thicker."
While an official stance is expected from the White House soon, hand washing and social distancing will remain top priority.
“When the advisory comes out it will be an additive piece, if it comes out,” said Birx.
It’s important to note officials are referring to regular medical masks, not N95 masks. The Trump administration also made clear this would only be a recommendation, not a requirement.