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Trump Administration To Recommend People In Coronavirus Hot Spots Wear Masks

A woman adjusts her mask in Los Angeles, where the mayor already urged residents to wear face coverings in public.
Robyn Beck
AFP via Getty Images
A woman adjusts her mask in Los Angeles, where the mayor already urged residents to wear face coverings in public.

The Trump administration is set to recommend that people who live in areas with high transmission of the coronavirus wear masks in public to avoid further spread of the virus, a White House official tells NPR's Tamara Keith.

Mayors in New York and Los Angeles have already urged people in their cities to use face coverings in public.

President Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Thursday that he was waiting for guidance from public health experts on whether people should wear masks in public.

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said she has been concerned that people would be less vigilant about staying six feet away from others and washing their hands if they are told to wear masks. "We don't want people to feel like, 'Oh I'm wearing a mask,'" and get a false sense of security, she said.

"This worries us and that's why the debate is continuing about the mask," she said. Any recommendation to wear a mask would be in addition to the existing guidelines, Birx said. Those guidelines to socially distance include avoiding gatherings, unnecessary travel and other outings.

Public health experts say face coverings could help prevent the spread of the virus, even if the benefit is minimal. President Trump in recent days had suggested wearing scarves, so masks can be reserved for hospital workers.

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Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Roberta Rampton is NPR's White House editor. She joined the Washington Desk in October 2019 after spending more than six years as a White House correspondent for Reuters. Rampton traveled around America and to more than 20 countries covering President Trump, President Obama and their vice presidents, reporting on a broad range of political, economic and foreign policy topics. Earlier in her career, Rampton covered energy and agriculture policy.
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