On Friday night, First Lady Melania Trump posted a tweet asking Americans to wear masks if they had to go out in public this weekend. The advice was in line with the CDC's new guidelines on face protection, but it flew in the face of President Donald Trump's statement that he would not be wearing a mask himself. Many Twitter users took note of this contradiction.
"As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing and wearing a mask/face covering seriously," the first lady tweeted on Friday evening. The post came a few hours after The Center for Disease Control and Prevention expanded its recommendation for face masks in general. The agency had previously said that only medical professionals needed face coverings, and patients in some extreme cases. Now, they say that everyone should wear a mask if possible when they absolutely need to go out in public.
As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone - we can stop this together.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) April 3, 2020
"[COVID-19] is a virus that can spread to anyone — we can stop this together," she added.
The statement got some raised eyebrows on Twitter, however, since it came on the heels of her husband saying that he would be uncomfortable wearing a mask even in social settings. According to a report by USA Today, Trump said he did not want to wear a face covering in meetings with "presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens – I don't know, somehow I don't see it for myself."
The remark was made in the same news conference on Friday where Trump summarized the CDC's new face mask guidelines. He emphasized that they were a voluntary health measure, and that this was not a call for civilians to start purchasing medical-grade face masks. Instead, the CDC "recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."
This may be in part because many hospitals and communities in the U.S. are still reporting shortages of face masks — both plain surgical masks and N95 respirators. The CDC says that these products are for medical settings only, and are not necessary for everyday life. They ask people to leave those masks for the doctors and nurses who need them.
"Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure," the CDC recommendation reads.
The coronavirus pandemic rages on, with the projected peak of the outbreak still weeks away. For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC's website.