Viral social media claim that mask-wearing leads to a higher risk of COVID is wrong

14-Oct-2020 4:25 PM EDT, by Newswise

Fact Check By: Craig Jones, Newswise

Truthfulness: False


CDC study finds overwhelming majority of people getting coronavirus wore masks”; CDC study shows that more people who wear masks become sick with COVID-19 compared to non-mask wearers, therefore masks don’t work or are making us ill

Claim Publisher and Date: Jordan Davidson, The Federalist on 2020-10-14

An article in the blog "The Federalist" by staff writer Jordan Davidson (and widely shared on social media) claims that a CDC study released in September shows that masks and face coverings are not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and may cause people to become ill. It states a study that showed that the majority infected were mask wearers. It draws this distinction simply because of the fact that the study included many more people who wear masks as compared to people who never wore masks to begin with. The reasoning is flawed since it assumes that masks are mainly intended to protect the wearer from infection. Health authorities advise the public to use masks with the aim of reducing the spread of infection.

As reported by Health Feedback...

Misinformation aimed at discouraging mask use has been prolific during the COVID-19 pandemic, as detailed in several reviews by Health Feedback. Another claim that masks do not work or that they make people more likely to have COVID-19 began circulating on Facebook and other social media platforms like Twitter in early October 2020 and went viral on these platforms (see example here). Apart from social media users, media outlets including The Blaze and The Federalist have also published similar claims. These claims are allegedly supported by findings from a study by Fisher et al. published in September 2020 in the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)[1].


The claim asserts that the study found more mask wearers becoming infected as compared to those who never wear a mask. Specifically, it cites the figures from the table below, which reports that 3.9% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 reported never wearing a mask, while more than 80% reported wearing a mask either often or always.

Health Feedback reached out to the study’s authors for comment. In an email, Wesley Self, one of the study’s lead authors and associate professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, stated that “We are not aware of any of our data showing that wearing a mask increases the risk for COVID-19.”


As detailed in this review by Health Feedback, scientific evidence supports the use of face masks as an effective measure for reducing the spread of COVID-19.

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