Health authorities changed their position Friday on the widespread use of non-medical masks and federal emergency workers say they are working around-the-clock to meet demand for medical supplies in an increasingly deadly COVID-19 outbreak in New York.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends the general public wear non-medical, cloth masks in public places to help blunt the spread of the virus. The move comes after new research highlights a significant number of people who are not showing symptoms may still have the virus – and are spreading it.

“So it’s voluntary, you don’t have to do it,” President Donald Trump said of the recommendation for wearing masks. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

Also Friday, a record streak of job growth in the United States ended as the Labor Department said over 700,000 jobs were lost in March, showing the widespread economic impacts of the growing coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. has now surpassed 7,100 deaths, with more than 1,100 on Friday alone. The nation’s daily death toll is predicted to steadily rise until the virus peaks, roughly two weeks from now.

There were more than 275,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. by 8 p.m. ET Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the death toll topped 58,000 with nearly 1.1 million confirmed cases.

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CDC recommends wearing cloth face masks in public
Surgeon General Jerome Adams detailed the new face covering recommendations at Friday’s White House briefing, acknowledging the evolving guidance has been “confusing to the American people.”

Adams stressed the new recommendation from the CDC and coronavirus task force pertained to non-medical, cloth face coverings and do not replace current social distancing guidance. The general public should not begin wearing medical-grade equipment, Adams said, as such measures should be reserved for the medical industry.

Officials have consistently recommended people showing symptoms of the virus should wear protective masks, Adams said. Now authorities are asking all people to wear cloth masks in public places like grocery stores and pharmacies.

The updated guidance is spurred by new science showing a significant number of people can spread the virus when they are not showing symptoms.

“This is about me protecting you and you protecting me. This is about us coming together as communities and if people voluntarily choose to wear a face covering, they’re wearing it to protect their neighbors,” Adams said.

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As for the President, Trump said he can’t imagine working in the Oval Office or meeting foreign leaders with a mask on.

“I just don’t want to wear one myself . . . I’m feeling good,” Trump said.

–Joel Shannon

Why mask up? Coronavirus might spread much farther than 6 feet in the air. Here’s how.

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US lost 701,000 jobs in March, breaking 10-year streak
The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March, breaking a remarkable string of uninterrupted payroll gains the past decade.

The unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from a 50-year low of 3.5%, the Labor Department said Friday.

The report reflects employers’ jitters early in the month over the unprecedented economic fallout from the pandemic. But it doesn’t capture the nearly 10 million laid-off and furloughed Americans who filed initial jobless claims the past two weeks as much of the nation’s economy was shut down to help contain the spread of the virus.

That’s because Labor’s survey was conducted the week ending March 14, before most states ordered residents to stay at home and nonessential businesses – such as restaurants, movie theaters and most stores – to close.