Is it against the law for a business to require people to wear masks, do masks make you sick, and is COVID-19 no more deadly than the flu? No, none of that is true: The claims of a woman ranting outside a grocery store about the illegality of mandatory mask rules, the health risks associated with wearing a mask, and the mildness of the novel coronvirus are unsupported by legal and medical evidence. Her theory that COVID-19 is a conspiracy to kill Mexicans, blacks and everyone else is also not backed by facts.
The video has been widely shared on social media to support claims that citizens don't have to wear masks and shouldn't. It appeared as a post (archived here) on Facebook on May 21, 2020. The Facebook poster wrote this introduction:
This is so Me 💯 speaking the truth (Wakeup) ppl get knowledge plsss seek information for yourself. Woow this lady is speaking Truth
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
The woman in the video appears to be taking photographs of the signs outside a store and begins talking to people off-camera about wearing masks. She predicts a lot of lawsuits will be filed by people suing stores for illegally requiring customers to wear face masks:
It is against the law to make you wear a mask. It's against the law. The ADA tells them that you cannot make you wear a mask. It's not our laws at all. This is just made up by Bill Gates and them.
The ADA -- the Americans With Disabilities Act -- has nothing to do with whether governments or business can require customers to protect themselves and others by wearing face masks. Lead Stories debunked the claim previously with our investigation into a meme that advised people to invoke the ADA as a defense against masks. Read Fact Check: Card Does NOT Exempt Anyone From Wearing A Mask In Public
At present, portions of 39 states have face-covering requirements for public areas amid the coronavirus outbreak, CNET.com reported. The requirements are often in the form of local ordinances, enforced by fines, citations or even jail terms. Lead Stories has not turned up any federal or state laws that would block mask requirements by local governments or businesses.
The purpose of wearing masks amid the COVID-19 outbreak is to help reduce the chances of transmission. The masks reduce contact with infectious droplets that are expelled when someone infected coughs or sneezes.
According to the EEOC, there have been new guidelines implemented for the American Disabilities Act amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The ADA allows businesses to require people to wear masks if an individual would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others, LaborandEmploymentLawUpdate.com reported. The EEOC "has declared that the COVID-19 pandemic meets the direct threat standard, based on guidance from the CDC and public health authorities regarding the risk of community spread and institution of restrictions."
However, if a person has a disability that prevents them from wearing a mask, that must be taken into account by the store. From LaborandEmploymentLawUpdate.com:
As of March 2020, the EEOC has declared that the COVID-19 pandemic meets the direct threat standard, based on guidance from the CDC and public health authorities regarding the risk of community spread and institution of restrictions. IMPORTANT - This standard may change and so businesses must stay up-to-date.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic is currently considered a direct threat by the EEOC, a business would likely be on solid ground to require customers to wear face masks or covering when entering into their premises. That said, a business would not have the absolute right to refuse to provide a customer service based upon the customer's refusal to wear a mask.
From the CDC:
In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
As for the woman's claim that the mask rules are "just made up by Bill Gates and them," Gates is a private citizen who happens to be one of the most generous billionaire philanthropists in the world. But he does not have the power to impose mask rules on citizens in any state or city.
The woman then tells another woman who was apparently wearing a mask that it would make her sick:
You're breathing out your toxic air and your breathing in the same air. You're making your lungs, you're killing your antibodies, so that if there's a cold that comes around in November, you're getting sick. You're making yourself sick... She's hurting her antibodies in her body. She's breathing in the toxicity and the carbon monoxide that is going to make her sick. She's not getting enough breath in her lungs, which is going to cause her lungs to weaken. It is all damage."
Note the woman said "carbon monoxide," which is a gas produced by burning gasoline or other fuel and is not created by the body. It is carbon dioxide that is exhaled by the body.
This claim has been circulating about mask-wearing causeing an unhealthy buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. LeadStories.com debunked this "hypercapnia" theory in an article titled Fact Check: Hypercapnia Does NOT Occur From Constant Use Of A Mask As Advised During The COVID-19 Outbreak
According to HealthFeedback.org consistent use of a mask does not cause hypercapnia.
"While it is true that hypercapnia can be life-threatening, the claim that it can be caused by wearing face masks, either surgical masks or respirators, is unsupported and runs contrary to existing evidence. The masks act as a barrier to keep out aerosols, but the materials used are still porous enough to allow gas molecules like carbon dioxide and oxygen to pass through, which are many times smaller than viruses. The size of a carbon dioxide molecule is estimated at about 230 picometers. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent for COVID-19, is about 60 to 140 nanometers, which is at least 10,000 times larger."
HealthFeedback.org gives an expert opinion on the warning about masks causing hypercapnia. Sofia Morra, a cardiologist at the Erasme University Hospital in Brussels, explained:
Wearing a surgical mask for short periods of time does not impact significantly physiological respiratory variables, and thus, whenever a rise in CO2 occurs in the 'dead space' of the mask, it is unlikely that the magnitude of this increase would be sufficient to impair immune, neurological, or cardiovascular homeostasis.
It also appeared that the woman claimed masks do not protect against coronavirus, saying "Go look on the package it will tell you it will not protect you from COVID-19."
Wearing a mask is meant to reduce the spread of the virus, especially from asymptomatic people, not specifically to protect the wearer from the virus. In other words, it's to protect others from whatever the person wearing the mask might have. The CDC explains why it recommends wearing a "cloth face covering."
This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity--for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing--even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms. In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
The woman also claims that "they" -- a group she doesn't identify -- "want to kill all the Mexicans, they want to kill all the Black people. They want to kill everyone." This may be seeded in the false conspiracy theory that Gates has a plan to "depopulate" the world and COVID-19 is part of the plot. Lead Stories previously addressed that in an article titled Fact Check: NO Plan By Bill Gates And The Vatican To Depopulate World With Coronavirus Vaccine; Video Misinterprets Gates' Speech.
The woman's claim that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu or a cold is also false. She said was "like any other virus." ICU doctors and researchers agree COVID-19 is a deadly monster with a mortality toll worse than the seasonal flu. The numbers also say this. Nearly 100,000 Americans died from COVID-19 in March, April, and May of 2020 -- a far faster death rate than the flu. Read Fact Check: The Flu Did NOT Kill 80,000 People In the United States Last Year.
It is always good advice not to stake your health on advice from someone ranting in the grocery store parking lot about a plot to kill everyone it the world. It is also good advice not to share the false wisdom with your friends.