Medical Daily Journal

Did you hear about a study that showed masks don’t work for viruses? That’s misinformation

The Associated Press checks out some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. These are bogus, even though they were shared widely on social media. Here are the facts:

CLAIM: A 2018 study that looked at the effectiveness of N95 masks versus medical masks found that masks don’t stop the spread of viruses.

THE FACTS: The study found that N95 masks and medical masks are equally effective at protecting against viral respiratory infections and illnesses — not that masks do not work.

The trial tracked groups of health care workers who were randomly assigned to wear either N95 or medical masks, also known as surgical masks, when around patients with respiratory or influenza-like illness. It looked at the health outcomes of these health workers at 137 outpatient sites over four flu seasons.

Derek Cummings, a professor of biology and infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Florida, said the study built on previous research that showed masks are effective at preventing the spread of viruses.

“The study was not designed to assess whether N95 masks work or not,” he said. “What we were trying to do was to say that we know N95s work. We don’t know how much better they are than medical masks.”

The study, which first appeared online in 2018 and then was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2019, determined that both kinds of masks worked equally well. A line from the study’s conclusion reads in part: “neither N95 nor MM resulted in superior protection.”

Social media users shared screenshots of that section and falsely claimed it was evidence that masks do not work. Trish Perl, chief of the division of infectious diseases and geographic medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, also co-authored the study. Perl said she was mortified when she saw the misinformation about the study circulating online.

“We found there was not a difference between wearing a respirator and wearing a medical mask in that study,” she said. “We didn’t say masks don’t work or N95 masks don’t work.” Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, misinformation around masks has been circulating online. Health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, recommend masks to prevent those who are infected with coronavirus from spreading it.

No, an employee strike didn’t force Denver airport restaurants to close

CLAIM: The owner of five restaurants in Terminal C at Denver International Airport told employees they needed to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Nov. 1 or they would be fired. None of the cooks, dishwashers, bussers or hosts showed up to work, so there were no restaurants open in Terminal C. The owner immediately sent an email reversing the vaccine mandate.

THE FACTS: Social media users this week are baselessly claiming that restaurant employees at Denver’s airport reversed a vaccine mandate by not showing up to work. “Denver airport,” read a tweet shared more than 5,000 times on Thursday.

“The owner of 5 restaurants in C terminal made a Nov. 1 mandate or get fired. None of the cooks, dishwashers, bussers, & hosts showed up to work. So there were no restaurants open in C Terminal. He immediately sent an email reversing mandate.”

The message in the tweet, which was later deleted, circulated widely on Twitter, Facebook and the messaging app Telegram, despite offering no specifics or evidence that the incident occurred. It fact, it didn’t happen, according to Alex Renteria, public information officer for the Denver International Airport.

“We have not had any concession employee strike, nor have any restaurants on Concourse C been closed other than their normal hours of operation,” Renteria said “We can confirm this is false information.”

Earlier this month, Denver airport janitors staged a one-day strike for higher pay, according to local news reports. And security officials told a local TV station this week they had voted to strike for the same reason. These job actions didn’t appear to be related to any vaccine requirements.

There is no airport-wide vaccine mandate, Renteria said, and companies with retail stores in the airport decide individually whether to require their employees to get vaccinated. Three different companies that appear to own restaurants in Concourse C of the Denver airport – Tastes on the Fly, Paradies Lagardère and Edible Beats – did not respond to emailed requests for comment on their vaccination policies.

— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.

— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.

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