Fact check: Mask mandates are not causing a spike in COVID-19 infections

Posts on Facebook showing a graph plotting daily new coronavirus cases along with the claim that “mask mandates may have actually spread COVID-19.” This claim is false. Mask mandates are not responsible for spikes in COVID-19 cases, and studies have proven that they reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of posts making this claim can be found here , here , and here .

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said in an Oct. 28 interview with CNBC’s Shepard Smith that he supported a national mask mandate (here) .

On Nov. 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that “experimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2" and that “the prevention benefit of masking is derived from the combination of source control and personal protection for the mask wearer” (here) .

The image used in the Facebook posts credits “Swiss Policy Research” as the source of the graph, which shows the number of novel coronavirus daily cases in France with a red arrow labeled “Indoor Mask Mandate” pointing to mid-July.

The graphic can be found on the organization’s website under the “Overview Diagrams” section of its “Facts About Covid-19" page ( here ) . On its website (, Swiss Policy Research describes itself as “an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit research group investigating geopolitical propaganda in Swiss and international media.”

When reached by Reuters for comment, Swiss Policy Research said that the social media posts misrepresented their analysis and that they “do not claim or suggest that masks increase cases, nor do we suggest people shouldn’t wear masks.”

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on July 14 that masks would be required in enclosed public spaces because of concerns about renewed flare-ups of COVID-19 (here). It is also true that recorded daily new cases in France have been climbing since late this summer (here). The correlation in timing, however, does not indicate causation.

The social media posts’ claim that wearing masks contributes to the spread of COVID-19 contradicts the findings of several scientific studies. For example, a study published by the University of Kansas on Oct. 25 (here) found that Kansas counties with mask mandates avoided a major surge in COVID-19 infections, while counties without such requirements saw a steady climb (here) .

Meanwhile, an Oct. 27 analysis from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine (here) found that Tennessee COVID-19 hospitalizations have been rising at a much lower rate in areas that have mask mandates than in those that do not.

On the national scale, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has projected that if 95% of U.S. residents wore masks in public, an additional 129,574 lives could be saved between Sept. 22, 2020 and the end of February 2021 (here) .

A study published by Duke University in September found that of the 14 different kinds of face coverings it tested, a fitted N95 surgical mask provided the most effective protection against respiratory droplets while a neck gaiter proved least effective ( here ). Cotton masks did result in lower droplet transmission than not wearing a mask (see Fig. 3).

After a national lockdown was effective at containing the epidemic in France, the virus started spreading again after rules were relaxed starting May 11 ( here ). On Oct. 17, France reported 523 new deaths from coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, the highest daily toll since April, when the virus was at its most severe.

In anticipating of a second wave of the respiratory disease, France has been back in lockdown since Oct. 30. Less stringent than in March, the latest restrictions have succeeded in lowering daily new infections and eased pressure on the French health system. The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 sharply declined for a third day running on Nov. 19 (here).

As a new wave of the pandemic washes over parts of the Northern Hemisphere, many countries are setting records for infections. In the United States, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has jumped nearly 50% in the past two weeks (here).

With the third coronavirus wave bringing a fresh surge in infections and putting immense strain on the healthcare system, the United States has continued to set records for daily coronavirus infections, with more than 187,000 cases reported on Nov. 19  ( here , here ).

As stated by Vox here, more testing for COVID-19 cannot be “the full explanation” for the surge “because hospitalizations (here) and the overall rate of positive tests (here) are trending up.”

The New York Times explains that the latest surge has come “as cooler weather is forcing people indoors and as many Americans report feeling exhausted by months of restrictions. Unlike earlier waves, which were met with shutdown orders and mask mandates, the country has shown little appetite for widespread new restrictions” (here).


False. Reliable scientific findings do not indicate that wearing masks contributes to the increased spread of COVID-19.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here  .