Coronavirus skeptics are pushing a forged document across social media to undermine public support for masks.
The forgery falsely claims the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend the usage of N95 respirator masks to protect against the coronavirus, and has been shared across Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and specialized discussion forums, reported The Daily Beast.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend that the general public wear N95 respirator mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including coronavirus (COVID-19),” the forgery falsely claims, under a photoshopped CDC letterhead.
The forgery is especially popular with social media accounts that promote QAnon and other conspiracy theories, but the CDC confirmed the document was fake and went against the agency's recommendations.
“CDC typically does not issue guidance or recommendations to the public in such a format,” an agency spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “CDC’s guidance and recommendations are distributed on the agency’s website, officials social media accounts, and through news media.”
Some individuals -- including children under 2, those who have trouble breathing and anyone who is unable to remove the mask themselves -- should not wear masks, the CDC spokesperson said, but the majority of people are encouraged to do so.
“CDC’s face covering recommendation has not changed,” the spokesperson said.
This latest misinformation campaign could undermine public trust in a vaccine, whenever one becomes widely available.
“People including Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, who have audiences of millions of people, are really priming their audiences to disbelieve anything public health officials say,” said Matt Gertz, of the watchdog Media Matters for America.
Gertz has been monitoring anti-mask campaigns spreading through right-wing circles, and he said social media misinformation poses a grave health risk.
“Given the need for widespread use of a vaccine in order to get herd immunity," he said, "that's setting us up for perhaps a very dangerous and painful future situation."