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VERIFY: Viral image about masks gets the numbers wrong, but the idea right.

There are multiple examples but the core idea is the same: wearing a mask can reduce your chances of getting sick by 30-98%. But are those numbers accurate?

A viral image shows that wearing a mask reduces your chance of getting a virus by 30% and that, if everyone’s wearing a mask, it can reduce your chances by 98%.

Unknown creator (if you have the origin, please share). Regardless of precise accuracy (which we have yet to verify), everyone wearing a mask reduces transmission across the board, but is most...

The CDC has recommended that most people wear cloth masks in public, but are the numbers in the image accurate?

THE QUESTION:

Is the viral image about masks accurate?

THE ANSWER:

The numbers aren’t accurate, but the idea behind them is.

WHAT WE FOUND:

This viral image is showing up a lot and in multiple forms. But they all have the same message: They show three situations and how likely you are to get sick depending on who wears a mask.

If you wear one, your chances are lowered to 70%.

If a sick person wears one, your chances are down to 5%

And if both people wear them, your chances of getting sick are down to 1.5%.

When asked about these images, The CDC couldn’t confirm the accuracy of the numbers.

“CDC can’t confirm the accuracy of the numbers reflected in this image,” they said in a statement. “Currently we are not finding any data that can quantify risk reduction from the use of masks”

So not only can they not confirm these numbers, but they also don’t have numbers for cloth masks themselves. 

The only number close to the image was a CDC publication about N95 medical masks. They estimate those filter out about 95-percent of particles that people breathe out. So the second example in the image could be accurate if it is referring to medical-grade N95 masks. 

So we can VERIFY -- the numbers in this image aren’t accurate.

But the idea that masks lower the chances of getting sick is true, especially when they’re worn by people who are sick.

The image does get that part right. Masks do protect other people.

The CDC says cloth masks are quote “not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others.”

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