Twitter Removes Face Mask Tweet From Trump’s Covid-19 Coronavirus Advisor Scott Atlas

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Scott Atlas, MD doesn’t exactly have the tweeting experience that U.S. President Donald Trump has. Atlas is about 56.5K tweets behind Trump. But he does now have something in common with the President Twitter-wise. He’s now had a tweet flagged by Twitter as violating its policies regarding spreading misleading information.

As a result, Twitter on Sunday deleted Atlas’s tweet but @albamonica preserved it below:

As you can see, @albamonica described Atlas as “a neuroradiologist who doesn’t specialize in infectious disease or epidemiology.” Despite not having nearly as deep expertise in pandemic response as someone like Anthony Fauci, MD, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or anyone who was actually referred to as a pandemic expert before 2020, Atlas has apparently become one of Trump’s main Covid-19 coronavirus advisors.

Atlas’s tweet got reactions from the Twittersphere such as:

So what exactly was Atlas trying to say in his tweet? He used a number of interesting abbreviations in his tweet, assuming that the vowels buttons on his computer weren’t getting stuck here and there. Here’s the text of his tweet:

“Masks work? NO: LA, Miami, Hawaii, Alabama, France, Phlippnes, UK, Spain, Israel. WHO:”widesprd use not supported” + many harms; Heneghan/Oxf CEBM:”despite decades, considerble uncertainty re value”; CDC rvw May:”no sig red’n in inflnz transm’n”; learn why.”

In general, the tweet seemed to be suggesting that face masks don’t work and that there are actually “many harms” with wearing masks. Presumably Atlas wasn’t referring to wearing a Batman mask and saying that people still recognized him through the mask in Miami, Hawaii, Alabama, France, and other locations. And chances are that he wasn’t talking about a cosmetic facial mask. Instead, he likely was tweeting about the face masks and face coverings that many people have been wearing to reduce the transmission and spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

So what’s with the listing of random geographic locations? Was Atlas trying to sing the song “Dancing in the Street”? Well, perhaps Atlas was claiming that Covid-19 coronavirus cases were still increasing in places that had mandates to wear face masks. Such a claim would be grossly oversimplifying the situation. Associations don’t prove cause and effect. Face masks alone won’t enough to stop the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. That would be like saying that wearing a tiara alone will make you a prom queen. You’ve got to wear other things too. And be on the ballot. And be voted as prom queen. Similarly, while face mask use can help when other interventions are concurrently in place, it won’t be able to overcome the lack of other interventions such as inadequate social distancing.

Determining whether a mask “works” or not shouldn’t be too difficult. A standard face mask or face covering is not a frappuccino machine. It is pretty simple and straightforward, like your underwear, assuming that you don’t make iced, blended coffee drinks with your boxers, tighty whities, panties, or thong. If you do use such things to make coffee drinks, do not invite anyone over to your place.

Here’s how a face covering works. If you wear nothing over your face and mouth, there’s nothing to block what may come out such as respiratory droplets, virus particles, and brownie bits. Wearing something over your mouth and nose reduces the chances of such things making it out into the air and to other people. Material is harder to get through than air. If you don’t understand this concept, stretch out a pair of your underwear and try to push your head through the material. Is it harder than pushing your head through air? If you still don’t understand, try repeating this while on Zoom with your boss and co-workers. Their reaction should give you a better understanding.

Moreover, what exactly are the “many harms” of wearing a face mask, assuming that you are wearing a face mask properly and not around your eyes like a Lone Ranger with no eye holes or inside your mouth? Sure a person may not be able to hear you whisper, “I love you.” It may be misinterpreted as “I love glue” or “I love poo,” which could have negative consequences. Sure, wearing a face mask can make reading lips tougher, which is a real issue with those who depend on lip-reading and has motivated some to develop transparent face masks. Sure, some folks already have legitimate breathing issues without a face mask and may not be able tolerate any added barriers.

However, if you are reasonably healthy or at least healthy enough to argue loudly against wearing a face mask, you are probably not going to suffer harms from wearing a face mask. Don’t listen to claims that face masks will result in build of carbon dioxide in your body or weakening of your immune system that are not supported by scientific evidence.

The one thing that widespread face mask could harm is the false belief that the Covid-19 coronavirus is not big deal. It could remind people that these are not normal times and that other precautions are necessary.

Atlas followed up his since-deleted tweet with one that had a greater percentage of full words:

While this tweet seemed a little toned down compared to the “NO” and “many harms” tweet, it still contained some questionable advice. Saying “otherwise, social distance” suggests that masks and social distancing are an “either or” situation when in fact it is better to do both. Just because you are wearing a mask, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t social distance. Suggesting otherwise would be like saying “use shoes for their intended purpose, when close to other, especially hi risk. Otherwise wear underwear and pants.” Keeping more than six feet or one Denzel (because Denzel Washington is about six feet tall) apart from others at all times remains the most important way of preventing virus transmission. Wearing even 50 standard face masks won’t be enough to fully compensate for the lack of social distancing. (By the way if you wear than many face masks you may find yourself nodding a lot). However, having people wear face masks while maintaining distance from each other will further reduce the chances of the virus spreading.

What exactly is the purpose of arguing against a public health measure that may help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus and doesn’t seem to have any significant disadvantages? That may warrant a shrug towards Atlas.



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