Mainstream media are pushing masks again in response to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
The media’s renewed advocacy comes in the face of mounting evidence that suggests masks do nothing to stop the spread of COVID-19—and without any real reckoning over the politicized reporting on masks during the pandemic.
What they're saying: "Experts say" exactly what they did in 2020.
As new Covid variants gain traction and cases climb in certain areas, a few schools and businesses are reinstating mask requirements. Experts say it makes sense to increase precautions, including turning back to masks. https://t.co/flp0vw4qAc
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 5, 2023
If you're at high risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19, it's time to dust off those N95 masks. https://t.co/PNAhksNAPq
— CNN (@CNN) August 29, 2023
USA Today: "The good news is, all the same protection measures that have existed since earlier in the pandemic will still work to avoid infection today, Long said. Those include:
"Wearing a high-quality, well-fitting respirator
"Avoiding crowds and people who are sick."
CNN: "Precautions like masking and staying up-to-date on vaccinations are especially important as this rise in Covid-19 carries into the broader respiratory virus season, experts say."
NPR: "The U.S. is seeing a late-summer spike in COVID cases, prompting some schools, hospitals and businesses to encourage—or even require—people to start masking up again. ...
"[Dr. Stephen Thomas, an infectious disease physician and professor at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse] says the combination of those factors prompted the decision to mandate masks—and it already appears to be helping."
OK, but: Few news outlets feel obliged to mention that, as the author of the gold-standard systematic review on the efficacy of masks put it earlier this year, "There is just no evidence that they make any difference. Full stop."
Flashback: The media probably got it right on masking the first time, albeit for the wrong reasons. Early in the pandemic, they parroted experts' proclamations that masks don't work.
It’s amazing how left wingers like Rachel Maddow went from being hyper rational on covid to completely losing their minds. This is a Maddow from March of 2020, acknowledging everyone would get covid and masks were mostly worthless. pic.twitter.com/Z1dcBtEfKC
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 4, 2023
— CNN (@CNN) January 29, 2020
How to prepare for coronavirus in the U.S. (Spoiler: Not sick? No need to wear a mask.) https://t.co/p8RDKepbtZ
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) February 27, 2020
Experts have said there is little benefit to wearing a surgical type mask, and warn it may even put you at greater risk for spreading infection. https://t.co/fdYqaaGK4E
— ABC News (@ABC) February 27, 2020
But then experts started urging masking—with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former White House health adviser and top masking scold, admitting he initially sought to prevent a run on then-scarce prophylactics—and Democratic politicians started mandating the practice. The media quickly embraced the role of partisan enforcer.
"It is really important to... [discourage] inappropriate behaviors like congregating in groups or not wearing your mask," says Dr. Julie Morita on Covid-19.
"As much as we'd like to celebrate and feel like because the vaccine is here, we can let our guard down, we really can't." pic.twitter.com/rTv8fsliVX
— CNN (@CNN) December 29, 2020
"This would stop the epidemic."
Some experts like Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School physician Dr. Abraar Karan have been advocating for public use of N95 masks from the start of the pandemic. https://t.co/BznU6EDX43
— CNN (@CNN) January 23, 2021
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 30, 2020
Wyoming’s governor has resisted calls for a mask mandate. Now he has the coronavirus. https://t.co/xSxQaDUAe2
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 26, 2020
Vaccines may give people a false sense of security that masks are no longer needed. Unfortunately, that is not the case. https://t.co/MMO8vHt3ua
— ABC News (@ABC) December 25, 2020
How to talk to your friends and family about Covid-19, vaccines and wearing masks. https://t.co/jX4fIgxyIt
— NBC News (@NBCNews) December 11, 2020
For healthcare workers, misinformation can make it feel like they're living in "2 different realities."
At work, they see people get sick. People die.
Then they go to the store and have people react with anger for wearing a mask, an official tells NPR.https://t.co/kRfbFpDbJq
— NPR (@NPR) November 20, 2020
Double-masking is a sensible and easy way to lower your risk when you have to spend more time around others. https://t.co/nwr75WgeeE
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 24, 2021
Flash forward: The latest round of masking coverage isn't as zealous as the first one, perhaps in part because experts' and Democrats' hearts don't seem to be in the fight.
Fauci has retreated to the position that "masks work at the margins" or "at the level of individual infections." And President Joe Biden, whose wife, Jill Biden, has COVID-19, joked with reporters on Wednesday about his flouting of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on masks.
BIDEN: "They keep telling me...I gotta keep wearing [a mask], but don't tell them I didn't have it on when I walked in" pic.twitter.com/MQt9H80OLT
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) September 6, 2023
Biden, 80, going maskless while awarding the Medal of Honor to an 81-year-old Vietnam veteran on Tuesday was covered with a similarly light tone.
Associated Press: "To Mask or Not To Mask? Biden Goes Both Ways After First Lady Tests Positive for COVID-19":
Biden was at Tuesday’s Medal of Honor event for less than 15 minutes. CDC officials have used 15 minutes as a rough guideline for how long casual contact between two people can be for COVID-19 to spread, although it is possible for the virus to spread in less time.
The AP in late 2020 when then-President Donald Trump went maskless on the job?: "Trump, Still Infectious, Back at White House—Without Mask":
President Donald Trump staged a dramatic return to the White House Monday night after leaving the military hospital where he was receiving an unprecedented level of care for COVID-19. He immediately ignited a new controversy by declaring that despite his illness the nation should not fear the virus that has killed more than 210,000 Americans—and then he entered the White House without a protective mask.