The US Government is formalising new guidance to recommend that many Americans wear face coverings in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The recommendations are expected to apply to those who live in areas hardest-hit by community transmission of the virus.
It is believed that the guidance would suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home.
Meanwhile medical-grade masks would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.
President Donald Trump indicated on Thursday that he would support such a recommendation.
“If people wanted to wear them, they can,” he said.
However Dr Deborah Birx, coordinator for the Government’s coronavirus task force, told reporters the White House was concerned that the mask guidance would lead to a “false sense of security” for Americans.
She said new data showed that the administration’s social-distancing guidelines were not being followed to the extent necessary to keep virus-related deaths to a minimum.
Under the previous guidance, only the sick or those at high risk of complications from the respiratory illness were advised to wear masks.
The new proposal has been driven by research showing that some infections are being spread by people who seem to be healthy.
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti urged his city’s 4 million residents to wear masks when they’re in public on Wednesday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit the following day.
In response to recent studies, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has changed how it was defining the risk of infection for Americans.
It essentially says anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.