Many news outlets used to provide incorrect information about the benefits of masks in stopping COVID-19. People were discouraged from mask wearing, mostly in order to conserve the masks for medical workers. However, in the second part of March the publicly available information on this topic has changed drastically. For example, see this New York Times article: Why Telling People They Don’t Need Masks Backfired
To help manage the shortage, the authorities sent a message that made them untrustworthy.
... places like Hong Kong and Taiwan that jumped to action early with social distancing and universal mask wearing have the pandemic under much greater control, despite having significant travel from mainland China. Hong Kong health officials credit universal mask wearing as part of the solution and recommend universal mask wearing. In fact, Taiwan responded to the coronavirus by immediately ramping up mask production.
Universal mask wearing very successfully flattened the curve for Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore - without the lock down that many other countries got themselves into:
Mask wearing is promoted by other sensible governments. Czechia banned going out without a face mask: "Whether you have medical masks, self-made masks, or use a scarf, anything is better than nothing"
Light surgical masks are good enough, and actually can be reused by disinfecting in the sun.
Just make sure to wear some type of mask around other people - it will protect your health, prevent health system collapse, and keep economy running.
Let's promote life-and-economy-saving mask wearing, not discourage it.
Added after 3/31/2020:
3/29/2020 Usage of Masks “Flattened” Growth of Coronavirus Cases in Czech Republic
3/30/2020 It's Time to Face Facts, America: Masks Work
3/30/2020 Czechs get to work making masks after government decree
3/31/2020 It’s Time to Make Your Own Face Mask
4/01/2020 Asia may have been right about coronavirus and face masks, and the rest of the world is coming around
4/01/2020 All Israelis must wear face-masks in public as virus precaution: Netanyahu
4/02/2020 Wearing Masks Must Be a National Policy
4/02/2020 All New Yorkers Now Recommended to Cover Nose and Mouth When Outside
4/03/2020 Trump: CDC recommends voluntary use of face masks for public to stem spread of coronavirus
4/15/2020 Coronavirus News: New Yorkers ordered to wear face coverings in public if can't keep social distance