After wavering advice, Americans now urged to use face masks to slow coronavirus spread

A protective face mask is seen on the dashboard of an ambulance in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on April 2, 2020.
A protective face mask is seen on the dashboard of an ambulance in Shawnee, Oklahoma, on April 2, 2020. REUTERS - NICK OXFORD

The Trump administration on Friday looked set to join local officials in advising Americans to wear masks when outside during the still-exploding coronavirus pandemic, as the US one-day death toll rose by more than 1,000 and the global case count crossed the 1 million mark.


Following a series of conflicting advice on the use of face masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration is poised to recommend the use of cloth masks or face coverings when outdoors.

Speaking at a White House briefing Thursday, Deborah Birx, a member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would in the coming days add a recommendation on masks to guidelines on protective measures.

But Birx said Americans, almost all of whom have been told to stay at home except for essential outings, should not develop a "false sense of security" that they are fully protected from the respiratory illness by covering their faces.

Trump, answering questions from reporters at the briefing, said only "if people want to wear them, they can."

The move came as the US on Thursday recorded 1,169 Covid-19 fatalities in a single day, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, in the highest one-day death toll recorded in any country since the global pandemic began in China late last year.

Global coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million on Thursday with more than 52,000 deaths, according to a Reuters tally based on country-by-country data.

NY, LA mayors early mask advocates

The Trump administration, CDC and public health officials have all wavered on the issue of face masks since the pandemic broke out, initially telling healthy people such measures were unnecessary or even counter-productive.

The mayors of New York City and Los Angeles both urged residents to cover their faces. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio cited studies showing the virus can be transmitted by infected people who are showing no symptoms.

"What that means is when you put on that face covering you're protecting everyone else," de Blasio said.

The Democratic mayor suggested New Yorkers use scarves or other home-made masks because medical-grade protective gear was in short supply.

An emergency stockpile of medical equipment maintained by the US government has nearly run out of protective garb for doctors and nurses.

US Navy captain who raised alarm relieved from post

The US Navy relieved the commander of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt after he wrote a scathing letter appealing for help to control a coronavirus outbreak onboard, US officials told Reuters on Thursday.

Asked about the captain during a news conference at the White House, Trump said he did not agree with the suggestion that it appeared the commander was being removed for trying to save the lives of sailors.

"I don't agree with that at all. Not at all. Not even a little bit," Trump said.

With an estimated 90 percent of Americans under unprecedented orders to remain at home, the US government reported that a record 6.6 million workers had filed for jobless benefits last week, double the previous all-time high set a week earlier.



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