Fact check: Image condemning mask-wearing contradicts scientific guidance

An image shared on Facebook shows an illustration of a woman with bacteria and sores on her face alongside a dangling medical mask and the words ‘they mean to kill us.’ This image contradicts medical messaging and findings on why masks are beneficial in helping curb the spread of disease.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

One viral post with over 11,000 shares and flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to tackle misinformation can be seen here .

Face-coverings act in a way that primarily protects others from the individual wearing a mask. Following initial confusion over how masks work and whether they work in protecting the population at large, the Atlantic reported in April on the benefits of wearing masks, which not only protect the individual but more importantly the people they come into contact with (here). 

Research has shown that effective prevention methods such as mask wearing, and hand washing combined with social distancing “can be pivotal to achieving control over a COVID-19 epidemic.” While direct contact precautions - social distancing, quarantine and isolation, and hand sanitizing - help minimize virus transmission by direct contact, face covering helps prevent airborne transmission, researchers say. (here) 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shared guidance on wearing masks visible here and here .

The image’s implication of bacteria and dirt being trapped on the woman’s face makes an uncompelling argument as anything trapped inside would be from any ailment she may already have. Proper mask hygiene and cleaning should be done regularly (after each wear) to clean away any germs that may be on the mask. Guidance on how to wash reusable face-coverings can be seen here , here and here .

Reuters previously debunked multiple claims falsely linking the wearing of masks to severe illnesses, such as pleurisy, fungal infections and hypercapnia, visible here , here , here , here and here .

The claim that wearing masks kills people has little basis in truth. Medical workers have safely worn masks for years, as have those in other professions (construction workers, for example). The safe wearing of masks is also normal and widespread in other parts of the world, particularly in East Asia (further reading here , here and here ).


False. Masks, which should be cleaned regularly, help to limit the airborne transmission of COVID-19 and other viruses.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .