Although face masks have been shown to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19 and have the backing of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and top scientists around the world, some people still refuse to wear one.
In some of those cases, people seem to be confused about how wearing a face mask might affect their breathing — and it often stems from scaremongering and false claims on social media from anti-maskers. Dr. Maitiú Ó Tuathail, the head of Ireland’s general practitioners’ union, revealed on Twitter this month that he had been asked repeatedly by patients whether wearing a face mask lowers your oxygen levels.
One of Ó Tuathail’s patients suggested he post a video to dispel the myth, and he did just that. He filmed himself testing his oxygen levels while wearing a total of six surgical face masks at the same time.
“I managed to get six face masks on [and] it had no effect on my oxygen levels!” the doctor wrote on Twitter alongside the video.
“Does wearing a face mask lower your oxygen levels” repeatedly by patients today!
Based on what they are reading on social media
*Face coverings / masks don’t reduce your oxygen levels!*
I managed to get six face masks on + it had no effect on my oxygen levels! pic.twitter.com/qNKYa8pejx
— Maitiu O Tuathail (@DrZeroCraic) July 14, 2020
This week, Ó Tuathail retweeted a post from Irish TV journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes, who wrote that, “a fortnight ago pretty much anywhere I went nobody was wearing a mask. Just now in the supermarket 90-95% were wearing them.”
“If that’s sustained it really is the most heartening example of us doing the right thing without being told to,” Boucher-Hayes continued.
A fortnight ago pretty much anywhere I went nobody was wearing a mask. Just now in the supermarket 90-95% were wearing them. 👏🏻👏🏻
If that’s sustained it really is the most heartening example of us doing the right thing without being told to.
— Philip Boucher-Hayes (@boucherhayes) July 20, 2020
Mask-wearing became mandatory on public transport and in shops in Ireland last week. In the U.S., each state has its own rules and guidelines relating to face coverings. As of July 16, more than half of them had issued statewide mask requirements, per The New York Times.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. had nearly 4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of July 23. Many states, including California, Florida and Louisiana, have seen huge surges of cases in recent weeks. But CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield says the nation could get the pandemic under control in one to two months if all Americans wear face coverings in public spaces.