From the WebMD Archives

April 2, 2020 - While shopping for groceries or carrying out essential duties in public, people could wear scarves if they’re concerned about contracting COVID-19, President Donald Trump said Wednesday.

The CDC and the White House Coronavirus Task Force haven’t yet said whether everyone should wear masks in public.

The question of whether the public should don masks has gained more attention of late, after Chinese officials said they were surprised Americans weren’t wearing them. But the CDC, and the World Health Organization, have said only first-responders and health care workers should regularly wear masks.

During the White House briefing on Wednesday, a reporter asked whether all Americans should.

“I don’t see where it hurts if you want to do it,” Trump responded. “We don’t want to do anything that would take masks away from medical professionals, but I don’t see it hurting.”

Those who are sick should, he said, but those who aren’t symptomatic could as well. In lieu of a mask, people could wear a scarf, saying it was “highly recommended.”

“What I do see people doing is using scarfs,” he said. “In a certain way, it’s better.”

During the briefing, Trump also responded to a question about social distancing and religious ceremonies and whether churches should continue to hold public services. He responded that the “biggest disappointment” is that congregations can’t meet in a time of need.

“Yet if you do that, then you’re giving this invisible enemy a big advantage,” he said. “It’s disappointing, but again, if you get too close to someone, you’re probably going to catch it.”

During Tuesday’s briefing, officials showed models for the “Stop the Spread” effort and the decision to extend social distancing for another 30 days until April 30.

During the current “mitigation” phase, people are encouraged to “flatten the curve” by following shelter-in-place guidelines to remain at home and only perform essential duties such as buying groceries and medications. If mitigation succeeds and the U.S. moves to the “other side of the curve” with no new cases, summertime activities with groups may be able to resume.

“It makes sense” to relax social distancing by then and focus on contact tracing, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday. However, that will happen when the country ends the mitigation phase and reaches the “containment” phase.

“The ultimate solution to a virus that might keep coming back would be a vaccine,” he added.

Also during the press briefing, reporters asked about those who don’t have insurance and what they can do during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice President Mike Pence said that health insurance companies have expanded coverage for COVID-19 tests and treatment, and uninsured Americans can turn to Medicaid, suggesting the program should be “flexible to meet this moment.”

For those who don’t qualify for Medicaid coverage or live in a state that has not expanded the program through the Affordable Care Act? They’ll have to wait and see.

Still, Trump acknowledged that lack of insurance coverage for so many is a problem.

“It doesn’t seem fair,” Trump added. “It’s a big group, and we’re looking at it.”