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Aaron Sharockman
By Aaron Sharockman August 18, 2020

Facebook post mislabels months-old image on mask policy as new to spread COVID-19 disinformation

If Your Time is short

  • The photo is outdated. The giveaway is the Nasdaq composite index listed in the bottom right-hand corner. The Nasdaq hasn’t sat at 9,415.23 since mid-June; the post claims the photo was taken in mid-August.

  • The quote depicted in the image is from at least as early of March, a Google search shows.

  • The World Health Organization currently says governments should encourage the general public to wear a fabric mask if “there is widespread community transmission, and especially in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

People are using an old photo of a Fox News graphic to spread new misinformation about mask policies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"As of the last 24 hours this is the protocol regarding masks — BAM spread the word!," the post shared Aug. 14 says. The post points down to an image of a Fox News television graphic that reads: 

"Masks should only be used by healthcare workers, caretakers or by people who are sick with symptoms like fever and cough."

The post, which has been shared more than 10,000 times, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

There’s nothing about this post that happened in the last 24 hours, other than people spreading it as misinformation.

The quote is from at least as early as March, according to Fox News.

And the image is likely from late May or early June.

How to tell the image is out of date

The Fox News graphic includes the composite index of the Nasdaq Stock Market in the bottom right corner. The index measured 9,415.23 at the time the photo was taken.

The Nasdaq has stayed above 10,000 since July 1, according to Marketwatch. It hasn’t been at 9,415 since mid-June.

The text on the graphic tracks with a Fox News story published online May 28, which said that the World Health Organization was only recommending healthy people wear masks in cases where they were in contact with someone infected with COVID-19.

Featured Fact-check

The story includes the same quote referenced in the image. 

"If you do not have any respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough or runny nose, you do not need to wear a mask," Dr. April Baller, a public health specialist for the WHO, says in a video on the world health body's website posted in March. "Masks should only be used by health care workers, caretakers or by people who are sick with symptoms of fever and cough."

What WHO says now

The post we’re checking doesn’t claim WHO said not to wear a mask in March or April or May. It made the claim that the guidance happened in the last 24 hours — meaning the middle of August.

A search of the World Health Organization website shows that’s not the case.

In an FAQ, the international health organization says it recommends that people always consult local authorities on recommended practices in their area.

"If there is widespread community transmission, and especially in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, governments should encourage the general public to wear a fabric mask. WHO also provides details on the composition of a fabric mask and how to safely wear one," WHO writes.

Our ruling

A post says, "As of the last 24 hours this is the protocol regarding masks: Masks should only be used by healthcare workers, caretakers or by people who are sick with symptoms like fever and cough."

The post was shared Aug. 14, and has more than 10,000 shares on Facebook. But the details in the image are months old, and the instructions are outdated. 

WHO says governments should encourage the use of masks in places where there social distancing isn’t possible or where there is widespread community transmission.

We rate this claim False. 

Our Sources

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Facebook post mislabels months-old image on mask policy as new to spread COVID-19 disinformation

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