FALSE: 85% of mask wearers catch COVID-19

Claim:

United States President Donald Trump said 85% of people who wear face masks are infected with COVID-19.

"I'm good with masks, I'm okay with masks, I tell people, 'Wear masks.' But just the other day, they came out with a statement that 85% of the people that wear masks catch it (COVID-19)," he said at a live town hall event in Miami on Friday, October 16 (Manila time).

Rating: FALSE
The facts:

The study that Trump was referring to did not say that 85% of people who wear face masks get COVID-19. What it said was that of a group of COVID-19 patients who took part in a study on community and close contact exposures, 85% said they wore a mask.

The study, cited by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a weekly report on September 11, was conducted to assess whether community and close contact exposures – such as dining out and being in close contact with a known positive COVID-19 case – was linked to the spread of the disease. To do this, they compared the activity of symptomatic patients, 154 of whom tested positive for COVID-19 (case-patients) and 160 of whom tested negative (control participants).

The study found that 71% of case-patients and 74% of control participants "always" wore a mask when in public in the 14 days before they began to show symptoms. Also, 14.4% of case-patients and 14.5% of control participants "often" wore a mask, which might have led Trump to the conclusion that 85% of mask wearers get infected.

However, mask wearing is not the only factor in that study that affected the likelihood of patients testing positive.

They also found that case-patients were more likely to have dined out in those two weeks. Among those who went to a restaurant or coffee shop, case-patients were less likely to adhere to recommendations like wearing a mask or practicing social distancing.

As such, "eating and drinking on-site at locations that offer such options might be important risk factors associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection," the CDC said. They recommended considering efforts to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 in situations where mask use is difficult to maintain, like when eating or drinking.

On its website, the CDC still recommends wearing a face mask in public settings and when around people who do not live in your household, especially when social distancing can't be practiced. This, they said, is to protect others from COVID-19 in case you are infected.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommends wearing a face mask, according to its June 5 guidance on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19. "The use of masks is part of a comprehensive package of the
prevention and control measures that can limit the spread of
certain respiratory viral diseases, including COVID-19," the WHO said.

Masks are worn for the protection of healthy people and for source control, but the WHO stressed that other measures like hand hygiene and physical distancing should also be adopted. – Vernise Tantuco/Rappler.com

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