Analysis

The Media’s Been Exaggerating, Misleading Readers On Outdoor Mask Mandates – Here’s How

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Shelby Talcott Media Reporter
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Over the past year, the media has repeatedly exaggerated outdoor mask mandate guidelines across the country.

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia currently have some sort of outdoor mask mandate, according to the AARP – but none of them require individuals to wear a mask outside at all times. This hasn’t stopped the media from skewing the facts to the public, though.

“BREAKING: Fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear facial coverings outdoors anymore unless they are in a big crowd of strangers, U.S. health officials say,” Southern California’s KTLA tweeted on April 27.

This tweet came after an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detailing relaxed guidelines regarding outdoor masking.

In part, these new guidelines note that individuals who are fully vaccinated don’t need masks for “a small outdoor gathering – with people who are vaccinated or unvaccinated,” according to CDC director Rochelle Walensky. (RELATED: The CDC Proves Incapable Of Putting Together A Coherent Message On COVID-19 Guidelines)

The KTLA tweet and article fail to note that California guidelines released in June mandate masks in outdoor settings if it “is not feasible” to maintain “a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence.”

No other state requires constant outdoor masking or double masking, either. But the media has opted to avoid pointing out the details.

“I am among the fully vaccinated – joined team Pfizer. And I did go jogging today in the park and this is the mask that I wore with a doctor’s mask under it,” MSNBC’s Joy Reid declared just after the CDC announced its new guidelines. “And most of the people that I saw that were in the park, the park was packed, I would say like 95% of people still had masks on. There are people who are getting really upset about that.”

While individuals may choose, as Reid is, to continue wearing masks even while social distancing or exercising, it’s never been the rule – although the press likes to pretend otherwise.

Back in July, the Washingtonian declared in a headline that “Masks Are Now Mandatory in Public in DC.” (RELATED: The COVID Crazies Have Been Demanding We Do More Than What’s Actually Required)

“Previously, individuals could go maskless outdoors if they felt they could stay six feet away from others. However, it seems leaving that discretion to residents has proved ineffective,” according to the article.

The article also asserted that: “Exceptions include eating and drinking, vigorously exercising away from people, and working alone in an enclosed office. Children under three are exempt.”

D.C. Mayor Murial Bowser’s July mask mandate tells a bit of a different story.

In Washington, D.C., outdoor masking is required if an individual is “likely to come into contact with another person, such as being within six feet of another person for more than a fleeting time.” The important phrase to note here is “fleeting time,” as it suggests that masking up outdoors is not necessary if an individual, for example, is walking down a not–packed sidewalk.

CNN Brianna Keilar also misled viewers when she shamed Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for not masking up during an outdoor event where he was drinking beer at Daytona Bike Week in March.

“We saw pictures over the weekend of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis at Daytona Bike Week,” Keilar said to a guest on the show according to Fox News. “He’s not wearing a mask, he is certainly very close physically to other people who are not wearing masks. Does this make things more difficult, as your officers are facing- I mean, they’re facing violence, they’re facing resistance to people who- they want to behave like the governor’s behaving.”

The photos Keilar showed on screen, however, include an important detail: DeSantis is drinking beer during the outdoor event. Masking up isn’t required while eating or drinking.

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The Baltimore Sun, meanwhile, published misleading context surrounding the newest mask guidelines when it claimed that “many Marylanders now have a choice to make about whether to wear a mask outside” in an article published April 29.

“Maryland followed suit Wednesday afternoon, with Gov. Larry Hogan immediately adjusting his executive order so that masks are no longer required to be worn outdoors in the state,” the Baltimore Sun wrote. “Hogan adjusted his executive order to remove the outdoor mask mandate. That means anyone regardless of vaccination status can be outdoors without masks.”

Just days earlier, the same publication noted that Maryland health officials were reviewing its guidelines on outdoor masking following the CDC update. This article pointed out an important caveat not mentioned in the latest piece: The outdoor mask mandate applied “when physical distancing” wasn’t “possible” in groups:

Throughout the pandemic, the CDC said people should mask up outside if they were to come within 6 feet of another person. Maryland adopted a mask mandate heeding CDC guidance in an executive order signed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

For now, Maryland’s mask mandate remains: Anyone who’s 6 or older has to wear a mask when in public indoor places and outside when physical distancing isn’t possible.

Despite its own paper noting the social distancing part of the rule in another article, the April 29 piece opted to imply that previously, masks had been required outdoors – point blank, no exceptions.

As with much of the media, the nuance on these guidelines was lost a long time ago. In reality, the outdoor masking guidelines do not require individuals to always mask up while outside, despite media’s attempts to suggest otherwise.