The Trump administration is set to recommend that people who live in areas with high transmission of the coronavirus wear masks in public to avoid further spread of the virus, a White House official tells NPR's Tamara Keith.
Mayors in New York and Los Angeles have already urged people in their cities to use face coverings in public.
President Trump told reporters at a White House briefing on Thursday that he was waiting for guidance from public health experts on whether people should wear masks in public.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said she has been concerned that people would be less vigilant about staying six feet away from others and washing their hands if they are told to wear masks. "We don't want people to feel like, 'Oh I'm wearing a mask,'" and get a false sense of security, she said.
"This worries us and that's why the debate is continuing about the mask," she said. Any recommendation to wear a mask would be in addition to the existing guidelines, Birx said. Those guidelines to socially distance include avoiding gatherings, unnecessary travel and other outings.
Public health experts say face coverings could help prevent the spread of the virus, even if the benefit is minimal. President Trump in recent days had suggested wearing scarves, so masks can be reserved for hospital workers.