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“Masks make you sicker”: The unkillable COVID-19 conspiracy theory

Masks work to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the “masks make you sicker” narrative, like antivax nonsense, has proven to be unkillable and to be a killer.

Of all of the disinformation about COVID-19 that’s been spreading, for all the conspiracy theories, the confluence of COVID-19 deniers, antivaxxers, and even QAnon conspiracy theorists, for all the unproven and disproven treatments (like hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, and the like), for all the quackery that’s bee promoted, even by the President, the most depressing nonsense about the COVID-19 pandemic that’s persisted and proven incredibly resistant to disconfirming science is the myth that, not only do masks not work to slow the spread of COVID-19, but they actually make people sicker. This particular myth has been very destructive to efforts by public health officials to slow the spread of the disease, leading to the misuse and abuse of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which has been incorrectly used (and, quite frankly, grossly misused) as an excuse not to wear a mask by those who oppose mask mandates. Even worse, masks (or, more precisely, refusals to wear a mask) have become a badge, a signifier, of loyalty to a particular tribe, largely thanks to President Trump’s refusal to wear a mask, dismissal of masks as unimportant, and even mocking of people who wear masks as “weak” and “afraid,” even after he himself got sick with COVID-19, largely because of his lackadaisical approach to COVID-19 at the White House.

Masks work to slow the spread of COVID-19, primarily to prevent the wearer from spreading the virus, but also, to a lesser extent, to protect the wearers themselves from coronavirus. That’s why my attention was drawn to an article by Olga Khazan in The Atlantic on the origin of the idea that masks make you sicker. It turns out that this idea is nearly as old as the pandemic and even more resistant to evidence than you might think. Khazan begins by describing the first time she saw the claim, overhearing it while swimming in her local pool:

About a month ago, I was in my local pool when I overheard a middle-aged woman in the next lane whisper it to her friend, in the way you vaguely assert something that you’re pretty sure is true but don’t fully understand. “Masks don’t even do anything,” she said. “In fact, they can make you sicker. Because you’re breathing in all the … stuff … you breathe out.”

“OK Boomer,” I thought. I dismissed her as a random neighborhood conspiracist and swam my laps.

I had a hard time not being a bit surprised that a journalist who has written quite a bit about COVID-19 hadn’t heard the antimask claim that masks make you sick until a month ago. I recall seeing permutations of this particular claim as far back as April, although Khazan’s article shows that the claim goes back at least a couple of months before that.

She then continues on about how she started seeing the claim more and more on social media:

But then I started to see this false notion appear more frequently on Facebook. It wasn’t the typical argument anti-maskers use, that mask mandates infringe on people’s freedoms. It was that the masks themselves are causing illness. The horror of the idea was apparent even to me: the feds, in their hall-monitor stupidity, forcing you to do something that’s actually bad for you.

Most recently, this surfaced in the form of “copypasta”—a post copied and pasted by many people onto social media, rather than shared as a link—from a purported “OSHA Inspector.” “I have worked in a clean room for 23 years and 10 years on submarines before that,” it reads. The inspector, supposedly from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, goes on to debunk each type of mask. N95s won’t “filter your air on the way out,” so they don’t reduce the risk of catching COVID-19 from someone who has it. Surgical masks, the post claims, are rendered useless by the moisture from your breath and the “amount of particles” on them. Cloth masks, meanwhile, trap carbon dioxide, risking the health of the wearer. “I know, facts suck,” it concludes. “They throw a wrench into the perfectly (seeming) packaged pill you are willingly swallowing.”

All of these claims are, of course, false. We now know that all forms of masks can interrupt transmission of COVID-19, with the most effective being N95 masks (which I always wear while operating or seeing patients in clinic), surgical masks being next, and cloth masks being the least effective, but still more than effective enough to be worth wearing. The evidence is both epidemiological and anecdotal, for instance, when two stylists worked at a hair salon in Missouri while infected with the coronavirus, but none of the 139 clients they saw while they had it got sick, because everyone wore a mask.

My purpose with this post is not to relitigate the evidence that masks work. They do, and the evidence only gets stronger as time goes on. Rather, it’s to look at this particular piece of misinformation or frequently, when used by ideological actors, active disinformation. Khazan describes the phenomenon:

Though the latest public posts mentioning the supposed OSHA inspector date from September, the idea that masks make you sicker has been spreading online for months now, even after various fact-checking sites debunked the claim. I emailed Facebook to ask for more information about this type of post, but the company did not respond. One instance of the OSHA post was taken down after my email. But others live on, circulating among mask-haters and affirming what they perceive to be their righteousness. The post is an especially bizarre example of the “infodemic” scientists have been battling alongside the coronavirus pandemic, in which the internet is a giant telephone game reverberating with the weirdest stuff imaginable.

Welcome to the club! If there’s one thing about the COVID-19 pandemic that might actually be good, it’s that it’s opened the eyes of a lot of people oblivious to medical misinformation to just how pervasive it is and how resistant to countering with evidence and science it is. Those of us who have been combatting antivaccine misinformation and disinformation for many years could have told them, could have warned them, but I’m not sure many of them would have listened, other than the reporters who had already long been covering the antivaccine movement, a distinct minority.

Perhaps the key point of Khazan’s article that resonated with me is how the myth that masks make you sick evolved organically from the claim that masks don’t work, which had been fueled by antimaskers who latched on to statements by public health officials early in the pandemic:

These videos and articles all came months after government officials had begun encouraging—and then mandating—that people wear masks in public. But crucial to understanding the spread of this particular piece of misinformation is that, for many weeks early in the pandemic, everyday people were told not to wear masks. Back then, prominent experts claimed masks were needed for health-care workers and were borderline ineffective for the general public. Versions of this advice also suggested that masks could raise the risk of illness. On March 12, Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, claimed that masks could “actually trap the virus.” Therefore, she said, “for the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea.” (Harries did not respond to a request for comment.)

In particular, this Tweet by the US Surgeon General has aged…poorly:

It’s true, though, that, unfortunately, early in the pandemic, public health officials did discourage the wearing of masks by the general public, but the motivations were mixed. In retrospect, the primary motivation appears to have been fear that the public, most of whom at the time were at relatively low risk, would buy up all the masks, creating even worse shortages for medical personnel than what was already the case, with the further rationalization that there wasn’t a lot of hard evidence yet that masks worked to slow the spread of this particular novel coronavirus. And, in retrospect, I get it (sort of). After all, in March and April, in my neck of the woods, it was damned near impossible to find toilet paper, and regular surgical masks were exorbitantly priced, even on Amazon, and took a month to ship. Even though I can understand the motivation, in retrospect it’s obvious how much harm, this initial reticence caused.

By the time the Surgeon General issued updated advice on masks in April, it was too late:

The original confusion had midwifed the birth of the antimask movement. Indeed, it was obvious by mid-March that this message had backfired spectacularly, as Dr. Zeynep Tufekci noted when she wrote about how to “help manage the shortage, the authorities sent a message that made them untrustworthy”:

First, many health experts, including the surgeon general of the United States, told the public simultaneously that masks weren’t necessary for protecting the general public and that health care workers needed the dwindling supply. This contradiction confuses an ordinary listener. How do these masks magically protect the wearers only and only if they work in a particular field?

Second, there were attempts to bolster the first message, that ordinary people didn’t need masks, by telling people that masks, especially medical-grade respirator masks (such as the N95 masks), needed proper fitting and that ordinary people without such fitting wouldn’t benefit. This message was also deeply counterproductive. Many people also wash their hands wrong, but we don’t respond to that by telling them not to bother. Instead, we provide instructions; we post signs in bathrooms; we help people sing songs that time their hand-washing. Telling people they can’t possibly figure out how to wear a mask properly isn’t a winning message. Besides, when you tell people that something works only if done right, they think they will be the person who does it right, even if everyone else doesn’t.

It also certainly didn’t help that the World Health Organization didn’t change its recommendations downplaying the importance of wearing masks until June. (In fact, I’ve long been frustrated at how slow the WHO has been in general to change its recommendations in response to new science.) This was particularly infuriating, given that, as Dr. Tufekci noted, mask use had always been advised as part of the standard response to being around infected people, especially for people who may be vulnerable, WHO officials were wearing masks during their news briefings, and since the SARS experience in 2003 that health officials in many high-risk Asian countries had advised wearing masks. She also pointed out that the messaging at the time also recommended that people who were sick should wear masks to protect others, further noting that, given the increasing evidence of asymptomatic transmission of SARS-COV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, such advice would imply that everyone should wear masks when around others.

Messaging screwups early in the pandemic aside, though, what about the “masks make you sicker” claim? Khazan states:

Versions of this advice also suggested that masks could raise the risk of illness. On March 12, Jenny Harries, England’s deputy chief medical officer, claimed that masks could “actually trap the virus.” Therefore, she said, “for the average member of the public walking down a street, it is not a good idea.” (Harries did not respond to a request for comment.) In fact, the earliest instance of a “masks make you sicker” claim I could find was in a February 27 news article published on a Utah radio station’s website. (Its author did not return a request for comment.) Though the article has since been updated, the original contains the subhead “Wearing a face mask incorrectly might put you at greater risk of getting sick.” The article then quotes a doctor named David Eisenman as saying, “I think people see a mask and they see an illusion of protection.” Though Eisenman’s quote does not quite support the subheading on the article, I reached out to him to see whether he still stands by his interview.

In short, he does not. “These things come back and haunt you,” Eisenman, a professor-in-residence at UCLA, told me. “Science recommendations have evolved. Now I would say that the evidence is very much in favor of masks as an important protector in the spread of COVID-19.”

This is very much like what happens with alternative medicine cancer cure testimonials. Once the testimonial of a cancer patient who chose alternative treatment instead of conventional science-based treatment is published, later information that the patient’s cancer progressed and the patient ultimately died often never find their way into the consciousness of people spreading the testimonial. As Grant Ritchey notes, this is partially due to the anchoring heuristic, in which a person places more significance on the first piece of information they receive than on subsequent pieces of information. In this case, the first piece of information was that mask wearing doesn’t protect the general public. (Never mind that the same message is that mask wearing did protect health care workers.) Add to that some motivated reasoning to cherry pick information, data, and studies that support one’s preexisting point of view and the message from President Trump and others turning the refusal to wear a mask into an ideological signifier, and the recipe for our current disaster of “mask wars” was written.

Indeed, just last night, President Trump himself repeated misinformation about masks and COVID-19 during his televised town hall, mangling and misinterpreting a CDC study, which did not say that 85% of people wearing masks get COVID-19, as Trump claimed. Host Savannah Guthrie called him out for his misinterpretation of the study, leading Trump, in essence, to shrug his shoulders and respond, ““That’s what I heard and that’s what I saw.” A week earlier, stories had been published describing how President Trump had blocked the CDC from requiring masks on public transportation.

All of this has led to yet another example of how, once started, pseudoscientific misinformation is almost impossible (if not altogether impossible) to kill. As Khazan puts it:

The “masks make you sicker” idea underscores how online misinformation is like an ocean liner: Once it’s headed in one direction, it’s difficult to turn around. The advice on masks changed seven months ago, but some people have stuck with what experts were saying in the confusing early days. One doctor’s criticisms of masks—which he now recants—live on in Twitter threads. And as people find new ways to share incorrect information, through posts, photos, and videos, social-media platforms are struggling to catch and remove all the hokum. Before long, the conspiracy theories break free of Facebook and infect reality.

My only quibble is that conspiracy theories don’t “break free of Facebook.” They’ve always been free of Facebook. Facebook might be the single most powerful tool in existence to spread baseless conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, but conspiracy theories and pseudoscience spread in parallel in other ways, independent of Facebook. Those other ways don’t\ just include other social media platforms, such as Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and others, but in society in general. People spread these conspiracy theories among themselves in their social circle, and it also spreads from there. In other words, Facebook reflects and amplifies preexisting conspiracy theories; it generally doesn’t create them. After all, 9/11 conspiracy theories appeared almost immediately after the World Trade Center attacks, even though current social media platforms didn’t exist back then, and the then-embryonic social media consisted of blogs (which were themselves new), Usenet, email lists, and some web-based discussion forums.

Unfortunately, the “masks make you sicker” narrative will likely prove as impervious to reason and evidence as 9/11 Truth, antivaccine, and climate science denialist conspiracy theories that undergird so much science denial.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

82 replies on ““Masks make you sicker”: The unkillable COVID-19 conspiracy theory”

It might be interesting to look at positivity rates in locales where masks are considered useless or dangerous- read general political leanings.
I am seeing frightening numbers from Wisconsin.

In other news…
Larry Cook ( Stop Mandatory Vaccination Facebook) says he is being shit down by social media.
If only!

In the UK, a doctor (think he might have been ED or A&E or whatever they call it at the moment) ran twenty odd miles wearing a mask and using a pulse-ox. He demonstrated that his blood oxygen didn’t change in the slightest, despite the exercise, whilst wearing the mask.

He did claim it was a pretty unpleasant experience though.

Over the summer I ran 13.1 miles wearing a cloth mask most of the time (I took it off when there was no one else on the trail, which wasn’t often).

It wasn’t my fastest half marathon ever (having to carry your own water and snacks is annoying) but it wasn’t my slowest either.

It was a thoroughly soggy experience, and next time I’d wear a different style mask.

He was actually wearimg THREE masks, one on top of the other…….. he was trying to say how wrong they were about lower O2 levels due to wearing just 1 mask.

“…the anchoring heuristic, in which a person places more significance on the first piece of information they receive than on subsequent pieces of information.”

I wonder about that. In my experience people in general only remember the last information they heard about a subject. That is, when they receive new and different information they have difficulty dealing with both so they go with the new. There are exceptions. I have numerous incidents in my career when I would sit a CEO down, give them pertinent data and recommend a course of action. They agree. The next day they are given different data or a different recommendation from someone with whom they trust or have a closer relationship and go with that. This is a common occurrence in business and it’s not just me.

With regard to medical misinformation (and politics, etc.), I suspect that many people place more significance on the first piece of information they receive that they like, not simply the first piece of information. Not many people like wearing masks and most do it despite not liking it. To some (or many) they anchor on the information that says mask wearing isn’t helpful or bad because that coincides with their preference. The extent to which they reject newer information depends on how fixated they are on that preference.

The difference is one of bias. In the business example I first gave the CEO had no particular bias and simply went with the newest and therefore presumably the best information or the newest and (to them) the most trustworthy source. Anti-maskers are biased and that’s why they anchor. Anchors can be displaced depending on how deeply they are sunk into the seabed.

You may have something there about bias.
I’m not sure about information in general BUT for memory, it can be easier for BOTH the first AND the last items received
(There are lots of studies about prior entry, proactive interference and retroactive interference. perhaps not entirely relevant here)

Whats to question? Two planes flattened Three buildings all in their own footprint luckily, one plane disintegrated in a field and the other an amateur pilot flew into the pentagon at 500 miles an hour and hit the front door on the peephole, why would anyone question that pile of horse shit story 🙂
BTW, those masks are without a doubt making you sick. That’s why they want you in them.

Orac should update the article quoting this comment. All he has to do is put the words “for example,” in front of it.

This 9/11 conspiracy crap was dealt with on earlier threads. Comment there.
As for:
[T]hose masks are without a doubt making you sick.
Citation DEFINITELY needed.

And yet every surgeon, OR RN, OR tech, procedureist, etc, etc, etc, I know is pretty healthy after wearing them 12 hours (sometimes +) a day for years…odd

Exactly, trained professionals. Lets advice these new folks in masks to also do their own cancer screenings and see how that goes, just grab any old knife and go for it. Heck, just use that old fishing knife on the floor of the truck, the one next to the mask 🙂

Not to mention everyone who works in any kind of clean room. Or the “clean” parts of animal facilities.

And then of course there are all the people who use all kinds of spray paint; they’re wearing the big respirators.

They all seem very alive and well to me!

Except that the Pentagon plane didn’t hit the main entrance. Unless you think west and south-east are the same thing….

Also, flying a plane that you’ve had training on, in the air, is much easier than landing it. So it’s not that hard to imagine a newbie pilot managing to hit the world’s largest office building.

1/10. Must try harder.

“Surely the difficulty increases 10 fold by having to hit the side door”

Does this mean that Bilbo Baggins and Smaug the magnificent are part of the conspiracy? I always thought there was something shifty about the dwarves building a side-door, now we know it was just a practice run for 9/11. Sauron’s arm is long indeed, or something.

WTC 7 collapsed after a big part of the North Tower gouged a hole in its side and set it on fire.

Now, if you want to talk about suppressed warnings that the White House received from at least 15 other countries and the rank and file agents in the intel agencies who also provided warnings, that could be a productive conversation. Unfortunately neither the conspiracy mongers nor the debunkers talk about that. Able Danger? Alec Station? The CIA’s plane into building exercise at the National Reconnaissance Office during the attacks? Rarely mentioned even though bits and pieces got mainstream media coverage.

It didn’t help that the idiot mayor, Giuliani, ordered them to store a large quantity of fuel in 7 WTC, above ground level,because he thought that was a good place for a secure emergency response center. (Yes, the same Giuliani who is now Trump’s personal lawyer.)

Now, if you want to talk about the EPA lying to the people of New York after the towers came down, and not giving the people doing cleanup after the disaster adequate PPE, we can maybe even drag this onto the original topic.

Obviously your thinking is being modified by your NorCalSkinny margaritas. Just put the bottle of tequila away and go to bed, even though it not even 9pm.

@ norcalskinny,

I know I’m an oddball for being a promask antivaxxer but honestly; masks do not make people sick. I think the opposite happened:

They didn’t want us in masks until April 3rd, because they wanted us sick. They wanted covid to be hopelessly spreading across the nation before they engaged in what is now an exercise in futility. Somebody wanted to stall to give covid a chance to take hold, so they waited until the first wave was underway before they said to mask.

@Christine KIncaid Who are “they” who want people to be sick? One of them is obviously Del Bigtree, who told people to get “that mild cold” (covid 19). All antivaxxers cooperate with hi, perfectlöy.

Poor NoBrainSkinny invested so much money in face recognition cameras, and now everyone who’s not a sheeple is wearing a mask. Poor little big government shill.

I’d not be a bit surprised, given the standard cloth mask and then comes a heard of chin diaper- wearing gentlepersons crowding the checkout counter at the beer store. I do so wish it would be better communicated that droplets must be caught before they can evaporate to small floaty stuff that does go through other’s cloth (gaiters are making it worse by being hydrophobic and shredding larger droplets into smaller ones on the way out).

*a marked jump in prevalence since Stuperman Trump is victorious — he’s been like Baron Harkkonen after surviving ‘the tooth’ in David Lynch’s 1984 verson of Dune since.–E?t=1

won’t “filter your air on the way out,”

I really don’t get this claim.
If you are breathing out viral particles, even more so if breathing our enough of them to infect someone, then logically you are already infected. These viruses come from somewhere inside you.
Inhaling back a few thousands viral particles won’t matter much. You already have a few millions teeming in your lungs.
If these exhaled viral particles are the last ones in your body (an unlikely scenario, but OK), because your immune system just killed al the other ones… Well, it will quickly kill these viruses, too.

Many are wearing masks with untaped over valves (‘valvers’) and many of these valves are off to the side with the slits facing forward — like a neutral-particle beam onto another’s face.

Yes but no.
The claim is not about the mask wearer contaminating other people. It’s about the mask wearer contaminating/harming himself/herself.

Well, if the virus gets trapped in the mask on the way out, it might dry out and climb back in. But, yeah. They help a buddy out by letting it escape an environment that is actively trying to kill it.

I can’t help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place, that if I might have put some germs, some virus, some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in.

— Rep. Louie Gohmert (R – Texas)

I understand the worry about people needlessly taking medical supplies for themself. After all, we had at least one commenter here bragging about getting the last box of masks in their whole city. Sadly, there were probably better alternatives to handle the issue, but zero leadership behind them.

Yeah I sure did. At Safeway grocery store on January 27th. Didn’t realize Centura & UC Health replenished their supplies from Bon Shopping Center. Also; Centura Health employees laughed at me for masking on January 28th, although it was nice to see that at least the doctor was wearing a N95.

Even if healthcare facilities do frequent Ace Hardware & Walgreens for supply runs; there wouldn’t have been anything there for them. Trying to remind myself I am attempting to communicate with someone who probably didn’t wear a mask until Fauci said so on April 3rd, lol

“They throw a wrench into the perfectly (seeming) packaged pill you are willingly swallowing.”

It’s a pill! With a monkey wrench thrown into it!!
You all know Orwell’s thoughts on the correlation between lazy, incompetent mangled-metaphor writing and lazy, incompetent unthink, so I won’t bother repeating it.

Used to have a ‘park narc’ in high school who would come around — us just leaning against a wall outside doing nothing during lunch — and say, “ya’ll better straighten up and fly right or I’m going to lower your boom.”

He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the shed.

That’s the best threat I’ve ever heard, it’s so cryptic and nonsensical. I’m definitely going to use that one, thank you.
Sidenote I don’t actually know what quote about Orwell and lazy metaphors. Would anyone care to enlighten me?

Sidenote I don’t actually know what quote about Orwell and lazy metaphors. Would anyone care to enlighten me?

I am delighted to introduce someone for the first time to “Politics & The English Language: A Guide to Writing Well”.

“By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images dash—as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot—it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking.”

“People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning—they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another—but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you—even think your thoughts for you, to certain extent—and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even yourself.”

Good review. A quibble. Not all of the anti-maskers are MAGA supporters. I know more than a few anti-maskers who are as far from Republican as it gets. Conspirituality and contrariness and extreme beliefs in the other direction from Republican. A couple friends spouting Covid disinformation who are very left wing have promoted far right “sources” to justify their views. When asked why they are promoting Trump 2020 materials, or John Birch Society type websites, they got indignant since those views are not theirs. Fair enough, I replied, but then why promote this? Logic wasn’t part of their reply.

People believe what they want to believe, whether right wing or left wing or anything else.

I don’t like wearing a mask, but I’d rather wear one than an oxygen mask in a hospital.

I kind of like it–It hides all the aging going on in the lower part of the face. Younger than usual men seem to notice me with just the smoky eyes (why not go overboard with eye makeup if that’s all that’s showing?) peeking out.

Does it never once occur to anyone, before they buy into these theories, that the “OSHA inspector” might be part of the well-documented intense Russian (or other) disinformation campaign? Which is interested in disrupting other countries, presumably by sowing distrust in preventative measures and so increasing the incidence of disease?

I suppose not. Confirmation bias.

And no, the tweeter in question was not an OSHA inspector or someone who worked in clean rooms. Those people know that CO2 is a molecule, and a very small one at that (I mean, three atoms!), and literally hundreds of thousands or more times smaller than even the tightest weave of any fabric. It passes right out through the enormous gaping holes of the weave. They also know that viruses, even the smallest, are hundreds of thousands of times, or more, larger than CO2, and also a bit sticky on the outside, and so some exhaled virus is retained in a tight weave cloth mask.

This just sounds like malicious disinformation, which has suceeded.

The Conspiracy gets ever wider and deeper.

Retired “vitamin lawyer”, antivaxer and self-styled “red pill crusader” Ralph Fucetola says he has been banned from Facebook – with no appeal possible!!?!

Fucetola describes the Facebook action as being like apartheid – and worse.

“I imagine it might feel like this to be violated.”

RI’ers will undoubtedly rise as one to defend Ralph’s right to be a Facebook influencer, or at the very least send condolences. 🙁

Oh, sure, the poor snowflake has my thoughts and prayers.
For about five seconds.
Not saying what I am thinking. Or praying for.

He’s not the only one:
many of those I survey are carping about social media shutting them down:
they need to seek out or create their own alternatives-
— Larry Cook ( Stop Mandatory Vaccination) asks followers for e-mail addresses and suggests MeWe, BitChute, Brighteon, ( future) Gab and others
— Mike Adams ( NN) has his own YouTube alternative, Brighteon and BrighteonSocial
— Del Bigtree relies upon his website and twitter for HIghWire
— Gary Null writes diatribes about Wikipedia and expanded his PRN website to include “instructive” videos and “true” accounts of his “education” and life “work”. Because he’s shut his health food store, you can pick up supplements at his office/ Vitamin Closet.
— Mercola, Age of Autism also bemoan what social media is doing to them.

These charlatans have relied upon free media for too long NOW they have to pay people to set up and manage venues and advert services.
HOWEVER I suspect that smaller groups will persist in sneakier ways.
The Lancet / Digital Oct 2020 linked to research that illustrated how much money anti-vax generates through advertising on social media..

“And, in retrospect, I get it (sort of).”

Well at least you said “sort of”; there’s hope for you yet.

Pay attention to that little bit of doubt you have; it’s gnawing at you for a reason. Hospitals don’t purchase retail PPE.

If hospitals needed retail PPE; the PPE could have been diverted away from retail at the source.

There was no retail PPE available in January. Or February. Or March or April; when Fauci said to use it on April 3rd. The hospitals could not & did not; benefit from unpurchased PPE laying on shelves in retail, because there was none.

They could have recommended homemade PPE at the same time they diverted PPE meant for retail, to the hospitals. I know people that made there own cloth masks in an hour from common household items found at home. Using blue shop towels or hepa filters as a filter inside the pocket. Bandannas could have been recommended. Gaiters.

It’s still a moot point, because the hospitals could not have benefited from diverted PPE in February, because there wasn’t any in January. Somebody knew this was coming in December. Maybe not anybody in the US but somebody somewhere did.

There is nothing “to get”. It’s a lie. They didn’t drag their feet to recommend masking “to save PPE for healthcare facilities”.

If they would have recommended masking in February, healthcare facilities wouldn’t have even needed as much PPE in March.

“We didn’t tell people to mask earlier, so we could save it for hospitals, because since people didn’t mask then; we knew the hospitals would have more covid patients & they would need more PPE”

Make sense? Not at all. That’s why you said “sort of”

That’s funny, we were still getting our shipments of gloves and masks well into March. We’re not a hospital. We’re not a doctor’s office. We just buy it from VWR like every other lab.

So there was in fact PPE available retail in February.

So can ya’ll just get together (ok teleconference) and decide just which science the common folks are suppose to believe.
WHO said no masks, NYTimes says, no big deal if you test positive for this stuff, I can’t be around my family cause that is who is going to give me the covid and do I flush the toilet or not. Throw in the Peltzman effect, we are all just basically screwed no matter who we believe (you know my body my choice).

Just make up YOUR minds what people are suppose to do.
“If you do not have any respiratory symptoms, such as fever, cough, or runny nose, you do not need to wear a medical mask. When used alone, masks can give you a false feeling of protection and can even be a source of infection when not used correctly”

Yeah. It’s like when the doctor says wearing a bathing suit outside is fine in the summer but might cause me to die of some madeup thing like “exposure” or “frostbite” in the winter. – make up your mind, doc!. Conditions never change – one answer has to always fit all circumstances. Wake up sheeple!

“Masks work? NO,” Atlas had tweeted Saturday, followed by misrepresentations of the science behind the effectiveness of masks in battling the coronavirus pandemic. Atlas also shared a link to an article in The American Institute for Economic Research that argues against the effectiveness of masks.
“Twitter seems to be censoring the science if it goes against their own goals of public indoctrination,” Atlas said.

“Everything he says is false,” Redfield said during a phone call made publicly on a commercial airline.

“American Institute for Economic Research”

“AIER) is a libertarian or free-market think tank…that partners with the Atlas Network and other Koch-funded think tanks”

“AIER owns…holdings in a wide range of fossil fuel companies including Chevron and ExxonMobil, along with tobacco giant Philip Morris International”

“AIER statements and publications consistently portray the risks of climate change as minor and manageable”

“AIER…has also reportedly received US$68,100 from the Charles Koch Foundation and maintains a network of local “Bastiat Society” chapters that partners with the Atlas Network, Ayn Rand Institute, Cato Institute, the State Policy Network, the Charles Koch Institute and other Koch-funded think tanks”

“That’s allota w.ords to say “dickwads””

Yup — that’s clear when “libertarian” is used.

I dont understand Orac… where is the high-quality evidence that masks work? where are the high N RCTs?

I cant believe my eyes… appeal to anecdote? correlation is causation?

for instance, when two stylists worked at a hair salon in Missouri while infected with the coronavirus, but none of the 139 clients they saw while they had it got sick, because everyone wore a mask.


are you really a scientist, ORAC?
or are you promoting pseudoscience?

P.S. Im unbiased and dont care eitherway…, just an observation I made about a double standard. It boggles the mind

Orac have of course cited any number of papers about masks. This I found easily from Google Scholar
Lyu W, Wehby GL. Community Use Of Face Masks And COVID-19: Evidence From A Natural Experiment Of State Mandates In The US. Health Aff (Millwood). 2020 Aug;39(8):1419-1425. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2020.00818. Epub 2020 Jun 16. PMID: 32543923.
Why do you not simple search for papers ?

You are definitely a layman, and one not to like learning, This is actually an expriment.
I do not take medical advice (or real estate advice) from Trump. This probably answered your question.

Thank you for your blog, I love coming in here to read the voice of reason, keep up the good work!!

@ Aarno,

"Who are “they” who want people to be sick?"

The same “they” that Orac posted examples of. Fauci, specifically; is the one who waited until April 3. It doesn’t matter if Del told antivaxxers not to wear masks. They were not going to wear them anyway & they have been largely unimpacted by covid.

It’s the people who would have worn a mask, had public health authorities just recommended masking, that I feel for. They would have worn one. Many of them are dead now.

Wait! Does this mean you have access to data that shows anti-vax people have a greater resistance to Covid? Has someone done that study? Or is this another one of your assumptions based on assumptions?

Also, masks work. A child could see that wearing a mask will reduce the chances of transmitting or receiving Covid. Sneeze in someone’s face and see how much snot they get covered in with/without a mask. How much it reduces the risk depends on mask quality, how it’s used and probably a host of other factors. The benefit could be tiny in some cases and massive in others. So the argument against masks is actually a sociopolitical one. Do you value your autonomy more than the increased risk of getting or transmitting Covid? The trouble is that no one wants to admit that because it’s the same as saying that you don’t care how many other people die, as long as you don’t have to do something against your will. Hence the desperate reaching for justifications such as they don’t work, they make you sicker, it’s a plot by those who wish to control you.

Yes. I think you may be right. I started ranting about anti vax/anti mask and ended up putting ‘you/your’ in there. Should have been ‘they/their’. Soz CK.

from u/incred:

It’s early morning, the tweet goes out
Last night I was boofing and pretty loud
The hoax is spreading, my mask came in
Will wearing this mean the liberals win?

America’s dying, do something they tell
Just hold more rallies, so I can yell
Playing it down, these stories must go
Oh shit I have Covid, it’s time for a show

Here I am
Rock you like a Hermancain
Here I am
Rock you like a Hermancain

@ Tim,
Thank you & yes; I am very pro-mask.

@ NumberWang,
Thank you & it’s okay. I agree that masks work. I have not entered an indoor public place without a mask on since January 28th. I worked VERY hard to encourage masking with my autistic son. He has worn a mask continuously for as much as 7 hours (school & school bus) in a day, no problems at all. After I found those last 3 boxes left in town, I left 2 boxes in my suv & posted to friends, family & neighbors that they could come by & help themselves to masks from my car, no contact needed. Initially (February); I had no takers. It’s not surprising, given that the media was reporting masks were not recommended but by April I had donated almost 30 masks.

It was just so freaking obvious that masks would help, because it was obvious that covid was either airborne or transmitted by respiratory droplets, before it even ‘landed’ in the US.


"And none of taking Del Bigtree’s advice is not dead ?"

I didn’t say that & I don’t know. I said antivaxxers have been “largely unimpacted by covid”. I know literally hundreds of antivaxxers & none have had a serious or fatal covid case from their households. The key part of that phrase is “serious or fatal from their household”. There have been cases in antivax households that were mild. There have been serious & fatal cases in extended family members of antivaxers who are not part of their household.

I am aware that many anti mask people have ended up dying from covid. It’s important to understand that not all people who were anti mask were antivax. It seems that if you insist on being antimask; you had better have been antivax for a long time before covid began. Being apathetic towards vaccines or pro vaccine, while at the same time being anti-mask; is a very dangerous way to be.

Oh I should clarify. I have met people who were quietly & personally against vaccines for themselves who have had moderate covid, but they were not activists & I don’t think they followed Del; they were people who had personally experienced an adverse event to vaccines in the past but thought it was just them (versus being opposed to vaccines because it’s the vaccines). Some have developed mild long-covid. Most of them caught it in March before masking was advised.

@ Aarno,

No. I suspect that serious covid is much less common in people who have not been vaccinated in recent years.

As the mother of a child who died after vaccination; I enjoy a certain amount of ‘clout’ in antivax circles. I THOUGHT that I could use that influence to convince people to wear masks.

(The organization MADD does not rely on the stories of mom’s who are AFRAID of drunk drivers; they influence others by mom’s of children KILLED by drunk drivers telling their stories.

I believe my friend who survived 9/11 after escaping the WTC, more than I believe the many theorists about what happened on 9/11; because she is a survivor. She was there. She barely escaped.

AA & NA work better for addicts in recovery than listening to some therapist yammer on & on, because former addicts are the real experts on addiction & they are the best peer role models.)

I was WRONG. Nobody listened to me. The only thing that can do that is fear of covid. Not the fear of covid a la media; because antivaxxers don’t trust the media. So I waited for antivaxxers to fear covid after experiencing serious, possibly fatal cases in their own households.

But it never happened. They have gone maskless this entire time but it just hasn’t happened. AntiMASKERS alone; have not had the same result. Many caught covid & died. If you are not going to mask; you had better be an antivaxxer & not a new one either.

Myself & 5 other family members were sick in late Jan-early Feb with SARS like symptoms related to international travel. All relatively mild. Three of us had mild long-covid symptoms but those were resolved as of May (I do still have the skin issues). We are medically confirmed ‘presumed’ cases (by opinion of 3 different providers) as testing was not available. It’s a damn good thing I was masking early; we could have infected hundreds. I also think it’s a damn good think we don’t vaccinate.

(ages were 16, 24, 30, 52, 64, & 79. Pre-existing conditions in the 64 & 79 year old, high risk factor for the 16 year old, long covid symptoms only for the 52, 64 & 79 year old, all resolved as of May, except for my skin issues & the 64 year old has still not recovered sense of smell)

I’m a member of DAMM, Drunks Against Mad Mothers. I hope that is not a deal breaker.

Re antivaxers: It’s entirely possible that having enough circulating stupid renders you impervious to the virus that causes Covid-19.

It would explain Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s belief that Covid cannot infect him. As he told reporters:

“I don’t think COVID can get to me. I don’t think it’s going to enter this body.”

He continued … “I don’t want no parts of it, it don’t want no parts of me. I think it’s a mutual respect.”

Moms protesting a Florida school mask policy get removed from a school board meeting – for refusing to wear masks.

““Masks should never be mandated because our children are not the property of the government. They are not the property of the school board. They are not the property of the district. We own our own children,” said Rachael Cohen.”

Shades of Rand Paul.

Kids are things, to be disposed of as parents see fit.

As the video shows, Borat was questioned by Lamb, who asked him for his identification during the interaction. Sacha Baron Cohen’s character first took out an “honor certificate” that he claimed proved his daughter was “one of my properties.”

“All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history,” he told the crowd. “Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others—they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged—stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.”
Thank you, Jonathan, for your very kind words. Thank you, ADL, for this recognition and your work in fighting racism, hate and bigotry. And to be clear, when I say “racism, hate and bigotry” I’m not referring to the names of Stephen Miller’s Labradoodles.
But when Borat was able to get an entire bar in Arizona to sing “Throw the Jew down the well,” it did reveal people’s indifference to anti-Semitism. When—as Bruno, the gay fashion reporter from Austria—I started kissing a man in a cage fight in Arkansas, nearly starting a riot, it showed the violent potential of homophobia. And when—disguised as an ultra-woke developer—I proposed building a mosque in one rural community, prompting a resident to proudly admit, “I am racist, against Muslims”—it showed the acceptance of Islamophobia.

That’s why I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you. Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason—the era of evidential argument—is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

Very nice!

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