The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday announced new guidelines recommending the use of cloth materials and basic masks to cover faces.
President Donald Trump made the announcement on Friday during a White House coronavirus task force briefing.
Trump suggested that if people wanted to voluntarily cover their faces with cloth materials or basic masks, that they do so with items that could be homemade, washed and reused.
The recommendation does not extend to medical-grade face masks, including surgical masks and N95 masks, Trump said, adding that those should be reserved for medical professionals.
Trump has repeatedly suggested people use scarves to cover their faces. Trump said he would not be participating in the CDC's voluntary suggestion.
The U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said guidance on face coverings changed after evidence showed increased transmissions from people who are presymptomatic (people who have not yet shown symptoms) and asymptomatic (people who carry the virus but do not show symptoms).
Adams also stressed that surgical masks and N95 masks should be saved for health care workers. He added that social distancing is still the most important aspect of slowing the spread.
"This is not a substitute for social distancing," Adams said.