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Surgeon general didn’t advise masking at home with kids

July 30, 2021 GMT


CLAIM: United States Surgeon General Vivek Murthy in an interview on MSNBC advised vaccinated Americans to wear masks at home with their kids and outside.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: Partly false. Murthy did not say vaccinated Americans should wear masks at home with their kids. He briefly seemed to advise wearing a mask outdoors, but later specified that when there is a lot of virus circulating in the community, vaccinated people may want to wear masks in indoor settings outside the home.

THE FACTS: Social media users this week are falsely claiming the nation’s top doctor told Americans who are vaccinated for COVID-19 to wear masks at home with their kids.

“Biden Surgeon General Vivek Murthy: Vaccinated parents should wear masks at home with their kids and outside,” an account managed by the Republican National Committee tweeted.

The claim spread widely on Thursday and Friday, fueled by retweets from a range of conservative commentators.

However, in a video clip shared with the posts, Murthy is not shown telling vaccinated people to wear masks at home with their kids. Nor does he say this at any point in the full 8-minute interview.

In the July 28 interview on MSNBC, the surgeon general explained to anchor Andrea Mitchell that people who are vaccinated but have a lot of interaction with unvaccinated people may want to wear masks in public settings outside the home.

He said this extra precaution could help stop vaccinated people from contracting a breakthrough case of COVID-19 and transmitting it to others who are unvaccinated and therefore unprotected.

“Let’s say you’re a parent like me, who has young children at home who are not vaccinated,” Murthy said. “That’s a circumstance where being extra cautious, and wearing that mask, even if you’re fully vaccinated, wearing it outdoor, outside, when you’re in indoor public locations, is an extra step to protecting those at home.”

Murthy’s confusing usage of the words “outdoor,” “outside” and “indoor” in the same sentence left room for interpretation on the question of whether he advises vaccinated people to wear masks in outdoor public settings. However, it’s clear from the quote that Murthy never suggested that vaccinated people wear masks in their own homes.

When Mitchell asked Murthy directly if parents should wear masks at home with their unvaccinated children, Murthy said that according to United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, parents should “be vigilant about wearing masks in indoor settings outside the house so that you don’t have to wear masks in the house with your children.”

Also during the interview, Murthy re-emphasized masking in indoor public settings, saying, “When you have a lot of virus circulating in the community, it’s important to take that extra step, go that extra mile, wear that mask in indoor settings outside that house so you don’t contribute to transmission.”

That recommendation matches the CDC’s latest mask guidelines released Tuesday. The CDC is suggesting that people return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the COVID-19 delta variant is contributing to surging infections, no matter whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

The surgeon general’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday to further clarify Murthy’s guidance. The RNC also did not respond to a request for comment.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with Facebook and other platforms to add context to misleading content and reduce its circulation online.