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Online claims misrepresent how to wear a surgical mask

March 31, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The proper way to wear a medical mask is with the colored side on the outside if you are sick and don’t want to spread your germs and with the white side out if you’re not sick and want to stop germs from getting in. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Medical officials say the colored side of the mask should be worn on the outside away from your face regardless if you are sick or healthy. 

THE FACTS: Social media users have been sharing the false claim since January, but it recently gained prominence in the U.S. as more Americans consider wearing face masks in the effort to protect themselves from the new coronavirus. 

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Dr. Seto Wing Hong, co-director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, said in January that the correct way to wear a mask is with the blue side on the outside facing away from your face and the white side on your face. 

“You see it has the blue color on the outside because it is waterproof and then you have white on the inside because it is absorbent,” he said. “So, if I cough, it absorbs it.”

Surgical face masks like the one shown with the false claim online typically have a blue side and a white side. 

One post on Twitter with the false claim had 80,000 likes. The post shows a document from someone who says they went to a doctor’s office and a nurse taught them how to properly wear a medical mask depending if they are sick or healthy. The document includes two photos of women wearing masks. 

“Colored side out if you are sick and do not want to spread your germs around. White side out (this is the filter part) for when you’re not sick and you want to stop germs from getting in,” the document reads. 

The post then goes on to say that the nurses at the doctor’s office never knew how to wear the masks properly either until their supplier sent them the proper directions. 

The San Francisco Department of Public Health includes information on its website on how to put on and remove a face mask. 

“The colored side of the mask is usually the front and should face away from you, while the white side touches your face,” the department says. 

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But experts stressed it is best to follow the instructions from the mask supplier.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536