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The White House coronavirus task force is said to be preparing to announce new guidelines formulated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that recommend Americans in areas hit hardest by the novel coronavirus wear some type of facial covering while out in public.
The change in guidelines signals a major shift in how officials are looking to combat the spread of COVID-19.
“Because of some recent information that the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing – the better part of valor is that when you’re out, when you can’t maintain that 6-foot distance, to wear some sort of facial covering,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said, while appearing on "Fox & Friends" on Friday.
The move would follow several local officials who advised their residents to wear either homemade masks or face coverings while out for essential travel. For weeks, the general public was advised by both the Trump administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO) that only those who were ill or had underlying health issues should wear face masks, and that the surgical masks and N95 protective gear should be reserved for health care workers.
The new CDC recommendations will reportedly urge Americans to wear cloth facial coverings.
Fauci said the new guidelines do not aim to take away the availability of such supplies for frontline workers, who have been making public pleas for more personal protective equipment as governors scramble to secure supplies.
“The important point to emphasize though is that that should in no way ever take away from the availability of masks that are needed for the health care providers who are in real and present danger of getting infected from the people that they are taking care of,” Fauci said of the expected guidance. “This is an addendum and in addition to the physical separation, not as a substitute for it.”
The debate over facemasks has raged on for several weeks as some officials argue that advising the public to wear coverings would create a false sense of security that would in turn see people abandon social distancing and thorough handwashing. Others say wearing the mask improperly, or constantly fidgeting with it could increase the risk of contracting COVID-19.
“If the CDC does put out such guidance, I would respect it. I can tell you having drafted many CDC guidelines over the years that these are done very carefully and on the best available evidence,” former CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Amler told Fox News on Tuesday. “Those guidelines, when they do go out, are not casual or frivolous.”
“It’s protective for people around you — that’s going to be the case whether or not there is a shortage,” he added of masks.
Fox News' John Roberts, Madeline Farber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.