It didn’t take Twitter users long to realize something in the chart wasn’t quite right: the blue line and the red line were not on the same axis. This gave the impression that counties with mask mandates in place had fewer daily COVID cases than counties without mask mandates. In reality, the opposite was true.
As of early August, 34 US states mandate the use of masks in public to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The efficacy of face masks has been a subject of debate in the health community during the pandemic. Because health experts disagree on their effectiveness, countries and health agencies around the world, including the World Health Organization and the CDC, have done a reversal on their mask recommendations during the pandemic.
Reasonable and persuasive cases can be made both for and against the use of masks in the general population. Unfortunately, the science of masks and viruses is becoming less clear because of the politicized nature of the debate.
A case in point is the Kansas public health official who made news last week after he was accused of using a deceptive chart to make it appear counties with mask mandates had lower COVID-19 case rates than they actually did.
At a press conference, Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Dr. Lee Norman credited face masks with positive statewide COVID-19 trends showing a general decline in deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases.
Norman pointed to a chart (see below) that depicted two lines tracking cases per 100,000 people between July 12 and August 3. The red line begins higher than the blue line but then falls precipitously as it travels down the X-axis, ending below a blue line.