Vermont officials are now advising residents to wear cloth masks when out in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine on Friday said he is now recommending that residents wear cloth masks in public even if they don't have symptoms. This is a reversal from previous advice saying this was not necessary or helpful.
"Wearing a face mask may help people from spreading the virus," Levine said, noting that other cloth facial coverings may also be effective.
The latest news from around the state
The U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control has yet to issue a similar advisory but Levine said he expects that to happen in the near future.
Wearing a cloth mask would not prevent the wearer from getting the virus, but could help keep asymptomatic people with coronavirus from spreading it.
The state announced 51 new cases of coronavirus in the state on Friday, bringing the total to 389. The number of deaths remained at 17.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said the large number of new cases is cause for concern and continued to urge residents to practice social distancing.
"While I want everyone to stick together and remain optimistic, we need to remain realistic as well," he said. "We can't take our foot off the gas. Social distancing and washing hands continue to be the most effective tools we have in reducing the spread."
State officials also advised residents to get outside this weekend, but to stay close to home and focus on "backyard adventures," rather than traveling to parks or public areas that may be crowded.