(The Center Square) – The Centers for Disease Control is now recommending Americans wear cloth masks when leaving their homes to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, President Donald Trump said Friday.
He noted the recommendation is voluntary.
"Its voluntary," Trump said during the White House's daily press briefing on the nation's response to the pandemic. "They suggest it for a period of time. I don't think I'm going to do it."
Trump said the recommendation is for basic cloth or fabric masks, not for medical or surgical grade masks, which are needed for front-line health care workers.
The president also said wearing a cloth mask doesn't replace CDC guidelines on social distancing; staying at home except for essential functions such as buying food, seeking medical care or going to an essential job; and washing your hands.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said at the briefing that the new recommendations come because of new evidence that the virus is highly contagious even among individuals not showing symptoms, which include a fever, coughing, trouble breathing and others.
Vice President Mike Pence said there's evidence that the CDC's guidelines are having a positive impact on slowing the spread of the disease in some parts of the country.
"Every American has a role to play," Pence said. "We encourage you to keep on keeping on. We will get through this."
According to the CDC, there were 239,279 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of Friday, and 5,443 deaths.
COVID-19 is the novel coronavirus that originated in China in December. It is highly contagious, and social distancing guidelines suggest that individuals stay at least six feet away from others when in public.
Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, echoed Pence in saying there's evidence the guidelines are working. In just week three of the guidelines, Birx said, the states of California and Washington are showing progress.
"We do see that their curve is different" from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, she said, which are among the epicenters of COVID-19 in the U.S.