People wearing face masks walk past a mural in Washington, DC (AFP / Olivier Douliery)

Health authorities recommend face masks to curb coronavirus transmission

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Facebook posts claim people should be unconcerned about others not wearing face masks during the coronavirus crisis as long as their own mask “works.” This is false; US health authorities advise people to wear masks to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others, and say they are most effective when they are widely used.

“If you’re wearing a mask, why would you care if I’m not? Your mask works, right?” says a July 6, 2020 Facebook post.

A screenshot of a Facebook post taken on July 13, 2020

The same claim appears on Facebook here, here, here and here.

Face masks -- which many state and local authorities are either requiring or recommending be worn as coronavirus cases spike in the United States -- are a contentious issue. Some Americans object to the inconvenience of using them or view them as an impingement on their personal freedom.

Mask wearing has also become political, with President Donald Trump long refusing to wear one -- a stance endorsed by his ardent supporters -- until he was finally pictured publicly using a mask on July 11 when visiting the Walter Reed military hospital.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes the danger of asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus and recommends cloth face coverings as a means to reduce this risk.

“You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick,” it says. “The cloth face cover is meant to protect other people in case you are infected.”

The CDC says: “Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.”

AFP Fact Check has debunked more than 550 examples of false or misleading information about the pandemic. A complete list of our fact checks on the topic in English can be found here.