United States President Donald Trump on Friday defied new medical guidance to wear a face mask to avoid contracting Covid-19, even as he advised all the citizens to wear it to protect themselves from the coronavirus, AFP reported.

The guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the government’s public health advisory agency, came as United States registered 1,480 deaths – the worst single-day toll in the world since the pandemic began – in 24 hours. The toll in the US is now 7,406, with at least 270,473 confirmed cases.

Trump said the government recommendation for all 330 million Americans to wear non-medical masks in public places, while buying essential services, would last “for a period of time”. He stressed that the guidance released on Friday was “voluntary”. “You do not have to do it,” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”

The change in the guidance with an emphasis in using face masks to stop the spread of the infection, came after Anthony Fauci, the head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said the new coronavirus might spread through the air via normal breathing and speaking. Research indicates “the virus can actually be spread even when people just speak as opposed to coughing and sneezing,” Fauci said, according to AFP.

Fauci’s comments were also summarised by the National Academy of Sciences in a letter to the White House on April 1. The letter said that while its not yet conclusive, the “results ... are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing.”

The recommendation made by the government of United States also comes at a time when the country is facing a severe shortage of masks. Trump suggested that people could “just make something” or use scarfs, saving clinical masks for health professionals and Covid-19 patients.

Meanwhile, the New York state reached an alarming milestone on Friday as it recorded the highest number of coronavirus deaths – 562 – in a single day, with a person dying almost every two-and-a-half minutes, PTI reported. Coronavirus cases in the state crossed 1 lakh, with a toll of 2,935, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The governor also expressed anger over the short supply of essential medical equipment for healthcare professionals in the state and across the country. He said personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and face shields were in short supply in New York.

“It is unbelievable to me that in New York State, in the United States of America, we can’t make these materials and that we are all shopping China to try to get these materials and we’re all competing against each other,” he said. “These are not complex materials,” the governor said as he held up an N-95 mask and a medical gown. “We will work with New York manufacturers, will finance the transition necessary to make these materials.”

The number of Covid-19 positive cases worldwide rose to 10,99,389, including 58,929 deaths, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.