(CNN) – President Donald Trump has repeatedly mocked former Vice President Joe Biden and others for wearing masks.
At a campaign rally in Arizona on Wednesday — at which there was no social distancing and most attendees did not wear masks — Trump started mocking what he claimed are the mask requirements in California.
“In California, you have a special mask. You cannot, under any circumstances, take it off. You have to eat through the mask,” the President said.
He continued: “It’s a very complex mechanism. And they don’t realize, those germs, they go through it like nothing. They look at you with that contraption and they say, ‘That’s an easy one. …’ ”
Moments later, Trump joked that a meal of spaghetti and meat sauce would mess up a mask someone was forced to wear while eating. The crowd laughed. But the President sounded serious enough when he made his other assertions about California’s mask rules that his claims are worth fact-checking.
Facts First: Trump’s story was false. Californians are not required to wear “complex” or “special” masks; basic face coverings, even homemade ones, are acceptable there. Though Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a statewide mask order, Californians are not required to wear masks at all times; they can remove them when at home, when alone in a room outside their home, when outdoors more than 6 feet from others, and when eating or drinking. And while people can transmit the coronavirus or get infected with it while wearing masks, face masks have proven effective in reducing the chances of transmission; they are much better than “nothing.”
Trump’s comments about Californians being forced to eat through their masks appeared to be a reference to an early-October tweet from Newsom’s office that told people “don’t forget to keep your mask on in between bites” when going out to eat with members of their households. The tweet was widely mocked, particularly in conservative circles.
Despite the tweet, California does not have a requirement to wear a mask in between bites at a restaurant. Newsom played down the tweet, saying at a virtual news conference that it was posted by “a staff member” and that its intent was merely to say that “if you’re just gonna read a book at a dinner table, it might be good after a while to put on a mask.”
Top health officials in the federal government, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield, have emphasized that the widespread use of masks is critical to the fight against the virus.