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FACT CHECK: Should People Cover Their Faces With Scarves Like Trump Said?

During his Tuesday evening briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump answered a question about shortages of masks by suggesting that it's possible to use scarves instead.

"A lot of people have scarves, and you can use a scarf," Trump said. "And my feeling is if people want to do it, there's certainly no harm to it."

Trump went on to say that he wants to see masks go to hospitals, not the general public.


"I mean, one of the things that Dr. Fauci told me today is we don't want them competing, we don't want everybody competing with the hospitals. We really need them," Trump stressed. "So you can use scarves. You can use something else over your face."

The CDC currently directs people who are infected with the coronavirus, along with those who are caring for people who are sick and can't wear masks themselves, to wear face masks.

"Face masks may be in short supply, and they should be saved for caregivers," the website reads.

Later in the briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx said the task force is just now considering whether that recommendation should change in any way, saying whether the public at large should wear masks is "still under discussion."

The CDC website does say that face masks may be reserved for health care workers and that people who fall in the category of needing a mask at home may need to improvise by using a scarf or bandana.


In an interview with NPR on Monday, CDC Director Robert Redfield also said the agency is taking another look as to whether the general public should be encouraged to wear some type of face mask.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has argued that the public should cover their faces during social distancing as an "additional layer of protection for those who have to go out."

"[Wearing masks] protects other people from getting sick from you," Gottlieb said.

This is where the scarves suggestion has come into play, since there's consensus that the masks that are available should be given to hospitals and other health care providers.

Other protective types of face coverings, like scarves or small towels, could also help provide some degree, if minimal, of protection against breathing in respiratory droplets from those who are infected. Since you can transmit the virus before becoming symptomatic, wearing a facial covering will help protect those around you from a possible spread.

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