/Fact check: Whats true and whats false about face masks?

Fact check: Whats true and whats false about face masks?


The USA TODAY Fact Check team is dedicated to verifying claims and fighting misinformation. Here’s a list of recent fact-checks related to face masks:

Do they work?

Fact check: Ear loop masks — even homemade cloth masks — offer protection against COVID-19

While ear loop and cloth face masks do not protect the wearer from contracting COVID-19, they do protect against spread to others. 

Fact check: Masks are effective against COVID-19; OSHA doesn’t say they offer no protection

It is true that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to keep their environment’s air at 19.5% oxygen or higher. But wearing face masks will not cause serious health effects, and they prevent the wearer from spreading the virus to others. 

Fact check: No, N95 filters are not too large to stop COVID-19 particles

The COVID-19 virus alone is smaller than the N95 filter size. But the virus travels attached to larger particles consistently caught by the filter, and regardless of size, the erratic motion of particles — and the electrostatic attraction generated by the mask — means viruses get consistently caught, too.

Fact check: Early research shows fabric could neutralize coronaviruses

Initial research — not yet peer-reviewed or FDA-approved — found electroceutical fabric is able to neutralize the virus after a minute of contact with the electrical field generated by the fabric. 

More:Masks required: Walmart, Target among retailers adding face masks requirements due to COVID-19. See the full list.

Are there dangers?

Fact check: Wearing a face mask will not cause hypoxia, hypoxemia or hypercapnia

There is no evidence that the general public will experience oxygen reduction significant enough to result in hypoxemia. Carbon dioxide can build up in face masks, but is unlikely that wearing a mask will cause hypercapnia, according to the CDC.

Fact check: Face masks do not weaken the immune system

There is no evidence this is true. Risks associated with wearing face masks only apply to a select few in the general population.

Fact check: Face masks can be unsafe for children under 2, but not for most adults

Young children should not wear face masks. But it’s false that all mask-wearers will suffer from hypoxia.

Video:New report from CDC says face masks can protect you and others from COVID

On face mask rules and recommendations

Fact check: ADA does not provide blanket exemption from face mask requirements

The Americans with Disabilities Act does not allow anyone, disabled or otherwise, to ignore mask requirements without other precautions being taken. 

Fact check: It is not a felony for Virginia concealed-carry permit holders to wear masks

Based on Virginia law and one county’s sheriff, this is false. 

Fact check: Discharge document from medical center is outdated

The CDC widely recommends cloth masks in public settings. The information stated on an old Texas medical center document in contradiction to that is outdated, though a real document.

On face masks and politicians

Fact check: Claim that Democratic leaders aren’t using masks is based on old picture

An image showing top Democrats talking in close proximity with no masks is from December, months before the masks and social distancing became required in the U.S.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, speaks with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., left, and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., second from left, in a private room just off the House floor after the House votes to impeach President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Fact check: Vice President Mike Pence did not carry empty boxes of PPE into a hospital

The video, since deleted, was posted by Jimmy Kimmel and shortened. A full version reveals that Pence did not touch the empty boxes.

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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