The Origins of the “Masks Don’t Work” Narrative
In fact, the earliest instance of a “masks make you sicker” claim I could find was in a February 27 news article published on a Utah radio station’s website. (Its author did not return a request for comment.) Though the article has since been updated, the original contains the subhead “Wearing a face mask incorrectly might put you at greater risk of getting sick.” The article then quotes a doctor named David Eisenman as saying, “I think people see a mask and they see an illusion of protection.” Though Eisenman’s quote does not quite support the subheading on the article, I reached out to him to see whether he still stands by his interview.
In short, he does not. “These things come back and haunt you,” Eisenman, a professor-in-residence at UCLA, told me. “Science recommendations have evolved. Now I would say that the evidence is very much in favor of masks as an important protector in the spread of COVID-19.”
Eisenman says the article was widely read. People occasionally tweet at him asking how he can be recommending masks now when he didn’t six months ago. He explains that the science changed, and so did his advice, but according to him, “it doesn’t seem to satisfy anybody.”
An interesting read on why you see some people latching onto the idea that masks not only don’t work, but that they get you sicker, despite mountains of evidence otherwise.