President Donald Trump has said he will not wear a face mask despite new medical guidelines advising Americans to do so.
He said he could not see himself greeting “presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens” in the Oval Office while wearing one.
President Trump stressed that the guidance released on April 3 was “voluntary”.
“You do not have to do it,” he said.
“I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
The guidelines issued by the CDC came as the US reported more than 1,100 deaths in a single day – the highest total for a 24-hour period anywhere in the world.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US has so far confirmed 278,458 cases of Covid-19 and more than 7,000 deaths.
New York state remains the worst affected area, with nearly 3,000 deaths, and state governor Andrew Cuomo has appealed for help from other parts of the US.
Until now, US health authorities had said that only the sick, or those caring for patients of coronavirus, should wear masks, but newer studies suggest that covering up one’s face is important to prevent inadvertent transmission.
President Trump said on April 2: “From recent studies we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood.”
However, the president told reporters after announcing the CDC’s new guidance: “I just don’t want to do it myself.”
“Sitting in the Oval Office… I somehow don’t see it for myself.”
Americans are now advised to use clean cloth or fabric to cover their faces whilst in public. Officials have stressed that medical masks remain in short supply, and should be left for healthcare workers.
The CDC guidance comes as the number of cases globally climbs past one million.
President Trump announced the guidance at the White House daily coronavirus briefing, but repeatedly emphasized that the advisory was “voluntary”.