Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, railed against face masks Wednesday and claimed they do not help curb the spread of COVID-19, the contagious respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The congressman made the claim in a post on Twitter where he shared a recent article published in The New York Times about a new study done by Danish researchers on the efficacy of wearing masks.
Scientists agree wearing a mask prevents individuals carrying the coronavirus from transmitting it to others, although the new study found it does not keep people from catching it, the article noted.
Touting the article on Twitter, Mr. Biggs said it showed that masks “don’t do what the ‘experts’ have been telling you that they do” and called them a “symbol of control” before rejecting them fully.
“Masks do not save your city, county, state or country from the spread of COVID-19,” Mr. Biggs, who is not a doctor, said on Twitter, where the GOP congressman’s profile is followed by more than 230,000 accounts.
Masks are effective at spreading COVID-19, however, and the researchers who conducted the study the congressman cited warned explicitly against misreading their findings to assert otherwise.
“The findings,” the researchers wrote, “should not be used to conclude that a recommendation for everyone to wear masks in the community would not be effective in reducing [COVID-19] infections.”
The study also had limitations, The Times noted. It was done in Denmark when and where the incident of infection is lower than in the U.S. today, and mask usage was not independently verified.
Individuals can become infected with COVID-19 and then spread it to others without ever showing any symptoms associated with the contagious respiratory disease or realizing they are infectious.
The disease can be spread in respiratory droplets that are expelled when an infected person breathes, accordingly causing public health officials to recommend people wear face masks while in public.
Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, posted on Twitter later Wednesday urging Americans to wear a mask and practice other mitigation steps.
“Masks are most effective when widely used in the community,” the CDC director said in one tweet. “It’s a two-way street,” he said in another. “Masks work best when everyone wears them.”
More than 2,000 accounts on Twitter had shared, or retweeted, the post from Mr. Biggs by later Wednesday. Twitter did not immediately respond to a message regarding whether it complies with its rules.
Among the Twitter users who retweeted Mr. Biggs was Marjorie Taylor Greene, a fellow Republican elected recently to represent Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives in the upcoming Congress.
Ms. Greene, who made waves on the campaign trail for having embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, previously railed against masks last week on Twitter and claimed they are “oppressive.”
Nationwide, more than 11 million positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the U.S. since the outbreak started earlier this year, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
As of Wednesday, more than 250,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, according to NBC News.