Fact check: Trump falsely claims California requires people to wear ‘special’ and ‘complex’ mask at all times

At a campaign rally in Arizona on Wednesday — at which there was no social distancing and most attendees did not wear masks — Trump started mocking what he claimed are the mask requirements in California.

“In California, you have a special mask. You cannot, under any circumstances, take it off. You have to eat through the mask,” the President said.

He continued: “It’s a very complex mechanism. And they don’t realize, those germs, they go through it like nothing. They look at you with that contraption and they say, ‘That’s an easy one. …’ “

Moments later, Trump joked that a meal of spaghetti and meat sauce would mess up a mask someone was forced to wear while eating. The crowd laughed. But the President sounded serious enough when he made his other assertions about California’s mask rules that his claims are worth fact-checking.

Facts First: Trump’s story was false. Californians are not required to wear “complex” or “special” masks; basic face coverings, even homemade ones, are acceptable there. Though Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a statewide mask order, Californians are not required to wear masks at all times; they can remove them when at home, when alone in a room outside their home, when outdoors more than 6 feet from others, and when eating or drinking. And while people can transmit the coronavirus or get infected with it while wearing masks, face masks have proven effective in reducing the chances of transmission; they are much better than “nothing.”
Trump’s comments about Californians being forced to eat through their masks appeared to be a reference to an early-October tweet from Newsom’s office that told people “don’t forget to keep your mask on in between bites” when going out to eat with members of their households. The tweet was widely mocked, particularly in conservative circles.

Despite the tweet, California does not have a requirement to wear a mask in between bites at a restaurant. Newsom played down the tweet, saying at a virtual news conference that it was posted by “a staff member” and that its intent was merely to say that “if you’re just gonna read a book at a dinner table, it might be good after a while to put on a mask.”

Top health officials in the federal government, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield, have emphasized that the widespread use of masks is critical to the fight against the virus.

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Trump continues to falsely claim that spike in coronavirus cases is due to heightened testing



Donald Trump in a suit standing in front of a crowd: LONDONDERRY, NH - OCTOBER 25: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on October 25, 2020 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. President Trump continues to campaign ahead of the November 3rd presidential election. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)


© Scott Eisen/Getty Images
LONDONDERRY, NH – OCTOBER 25: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally on October 25, 2020 in Londonderry, New Hampshire. President Trump continues to campaign ahead of the November 3rd presidential election. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump has claimed over and over in the past week — at campaign rallies, on Twitter and in an interview with “60 Minutes” — that the US is only seeing so many coronavirus cases because the country is doing so much testing.

“Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy,” he wrote on Twitter on Monday morning.

Trump made similar claims during the summer spike in cases. They were flat wrong then, as we explained in a July fact check, and they are flat wrong now.

Facts First: The spike in US coronavirus cases is not being caused by an increase in testing. The number of confirmed new cases is increasing at a faster rate than the number of new tests. And the number of hospitalizations and deaths is also rising, which shows that, contrary to Trump’s repeated claims, the increase in the case numbers isn’t merely being caused by tests capturing mild cases. Taken together, the numbers tell a consistent story: the situation in the US is genuinely getting worse.

“To say that cases aren’t actually increasing is to deny reality,” Dr. Tom Frieden, who served as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under President Barack Obama, said in a Sunday email.

“Not only are cases and infections increasing, but hospitalizations — which follow case increases by several weeks — and deaths — which follow hospitalization increases by a week or two — are also increasing. What’s more, the proportion of tests that are positive has increased, and this correlates with increased actual spread of infection.” Frieden added: “The most reliable information is positivity, and this increased in all regions of the country.”

The national positivity rate as of Saturday was 6.1%, per Johns Hopkins University data, up from 4.6% a month prior.

If the increase in reported cases “were due to a very high level of testing, we would expect to see the percentage of tests that are positive be very low, certainly less than 3%. However that is not what we are seeing,” said Aubree Gordon, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

Worsening numbers

On Friday, the US set a new record for reported daily coronavirus cases: 83,757, according to Johns Hopkins data. Through Saturday, the seven-day average for daily new cases was 66,970 — the highest since late July.

The increase in daily cases is far outpacing the increase in daily testing. The COVID Tracking Project, an initiative that assembles and analyzes coronavirus data, tweeted on Saturday that “tests rose 3.8% from a week ago, while cases are up 20.6%.”

Trump has repeatedly suggested that the increase in confirmed cases is happening simply because tests are capturing cases

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