Video of nurse giving misleading advice about masks spreads on social media

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A video of a nurse shared thousands of times on Facebook during the coronavirus pandemic warns the public against continuously wearing face masks. Her claims that wearing a face mask could harm the body are misleading, according to medical experts.

“This is why I don't wear a mask,” said one Facebook user who shared the video on May 17, 2020. The video was viewed 44,000 times from that post alone.

Screenshot taken on June, 11 2020 of the video as it appears on Facebook

The video, shared by accounts in Canada (1,2), the United States (1,2,3) and the Netherlands, shows a woman identifying herself as “Danika Bueno, an RN with my BSN” (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). 

AFP confirmed through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s database that someone named Danika Bueno is a registered nurse, in Grants Pass, Oregon. AFP also found that Bueno was previously registered as a nurse in Colorado and Hawaii and those licenses have since expired. The records list no disciplinary actions against her.

Screenshot taken on June 12, 2020 of Danika Bueno’s nursing license in Oregon

Bueno makes several claims about adverse health effects brought on by wearing face masks including: “creating a pH imbalance” in the blood, that masks are ineffective against viruses, and that wearing a mask will lead to increased face-touching.

“The claims that this person is making are not true. They reflect a very rudimentary understanding of human physiology and mask technology. It is a classic example of where a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing,” Shane Shapera, Director of Toronto General Hospital’s Interstitial Lung Disease Program and an Associate Professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, told AFP by email.

The woman in the video claims that wearing a mask can create an “acidotic state” or pH imbalance in the blood, comparing it to breathing into a paper bag and “rebreathing” your own CO2. 

“A surgical mask is not a closed system. Almost all of the air that you blow out escapes the mask and so you are not breathing in your own CO2” says Shapera. “There is no evidence that using a mask for prolonged periods of time causes an elevation of CO2 levels (a.k.a. hypercapnia) or acidosis (a drop in pH).”

This claim has also been addressed in AFP fact-checks about the risks of hypercapnia and hypoxia.

The woman in the video goes on to claim that masks are “highly ineffective against viruses”. This is misleading.

“The purpose of wearing a surgical mask during the COVID-19 pandemic is to protect others from the wearer,”  Shapera explained. “There is excellent data showing us that the main way that COVID-19 spreads is through infected patients coughing or sneezing and having those droplets land in the mouth and nose of people nearby.”

Shapera said, “the idea is that by having everyone protect each other, that will eventually protect you. (ie. if you and I are both wearing masks, your mask protects me while my mask protects you).”

The probability of spread “is highest if the carrier or case is not wearing a mask and lowest if both the carrier and contact are masked,” Shelley Payne, interim director of the LaMontagne Center for Infectious Disease at the University of Texas at Austin, told AFP in this fact check.

Similar claims were addressed by AFP Fact Check here and here.

Finally, the woman in the video claims that wearing a mask will cause the wearer to “touch your face more often,” implying that the wearer will touch an infected surface before touching their face and catching the virus. This is also misleading.

“Our current understanding of COVID-19 is that it is primarily spread through droplets and not by touching surfaces” Shapera said. “Overall, health care professionals feel that wearing a mask does increase the risk of touching your face. However, the benefits of wearing a mask outweigh the risks.”

This claim, and other similar claims, were addressed in this AFP fact check.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the official advice from Health Canada and the CDC remains that wearing a mask or face covering is recommended where social distancing is difficult.

AFP Fact Check has debunked more than 500 examples of false or misleading information about the novel coronavirus. You can find the complete list of our fact-checks on the topic in English here.