National news and local news outlets alike have shared a CDC infographic with similar captions: the CDC says to shave your beard to reduce the risk of infection from the latest coronavirus, called COVID-19.
CNN has written an article on it and it has been shared by a reporter for NBC News.
It is legitimately an infographic from the CDC, but the context beyond that is missing. In fact, when you uncover the context you’ll find it has nothing to do with COVID-19 at all.
Is the Center for Disease Control telling people to shave their beards to protect against the coronavirus?
No. The infographic about respirators is from 2017, and it's unrelated to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. In fact, the CDC doesn't currently recommend that people who are well should wear masks.
WHAT WE FOUND
The infographic is from a 2017 CDC blog post in response to No Shave November. The blog post wasn’t even related to an illness at all -- it was directed toward people who have to wear tight-fitting respirators at work.
The blog post warned that facial hair that crosses the respirator’s seal could prevent the mask from sealing properly and thus allow particles, vapors and gases in through the mask and into the user’s respiratory system.
Even then, the CDC didn’t recommend people do away with facial hair entirely -- they just urged them to get creative with their participation in No Shave November. Small mustaches and beards were still okay.
The CDC’s FAQ page said they do not recommend people who are healthy wear facemasks to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 and individuals should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it.
They do recommend people who are sick wear facemasks to reduce the risk they infect others. The CDC also says facemasks are crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19.
The CDC has a page of infographics on using respirators and masks. The infographic with the facial hair is included on this page.
So the CDC never said individuals should shave their beards to protect themselves from the coronavirus. Their infographic only really applies to people who would need masks, such as people who are already sick or doctors taking care of people with the virus.
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