The decision comes after top health officials reconsidered current guidelines on public safety advice. Americans were previously told that face coverings or masks were unnecessary for healthy individuals.
At a White House coronavirus briefing on Thursday, the president told reporters that “a recommendation is coming out,” but “I don’t think it will be mandatory. If people want to wear them, they can.”
The president added that Americans could “decide for themselves” whether or not to adorn face coverings in public.
Mike Pence, the vice president, confirmed that new guidelines would be released in the coming days whilst the White House coronavirus task force weighed-up recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A White House official who spoke on condition of anonymity later told The Washington Post that the recommendations under consideration were “narrowly targeted” towards those areas of high community transmission.
That could include parts of California, New Orleans and New York, where the coronavirus death toll has doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900.
According to The Washington Post report, the CDC had told White House officials that there was new evidence to suggest that wearing cloth masks could be an effective additional measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus between people.
At the same time, CDC Director Robert Redfield told NPR on Thursday that face coverings were “being critically re-reviewed, to see if there’s potential additional value for individuals that are infected or individuals that may be asymptomatically infected.”
The White House’s response coordinator, Dr Deborah Birx, cautioned that the public should not stop adhering to federal guidelines on social distancing because of the new recommendations.
She said on Thursday: “Don’t get a false sense of security that that mask is protecting you exclusively from getting infected.”
Officials are also believed to be considering the exact wording for the measures, to prevent Americans rushing to purchase medical “masks” that are in short supply.
President Trump described cloth material to be preferential, saying: “In many ways, a scarf is better. It’s thicker.”
He first suggested on Monday that the issue was something the White House could certainly “look into”.