The Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, California, Wednesday issued a statement disavowing a study being circulated online that claims face masks are “worthless” against COVID-19.
The report, “Facemasks in the COVID-19 era: A health hypothesis,” was published in November in the journal Medical Hypotheses. Its author, Baruch Vainshelboim, claims that “scientific evidence supporting facemasks’ efficacy is lacking” while “adverse physiological, psychological and health effects are established.”
Vainshelboim’s credentials are cited as “Cardiology Division, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System/Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, United States.”
But Stanford’s statement says that description is inaccurate and has asked for a correction.
Stanford says Vainshelboim had no affiliation with the school at the time of the study’s publication and his only affiliation was a one-year term as a visiting scholar “on matters unrelated to this paper.”
The school said it strongly supports the use of masks to control the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Vainshelboim identifies himself in his LinkedIn profile as a clinical exercise physiologist, with a doctorate from the University of Porto in Portugal.
The study has been circulating this week on right wing websites and media, including The Gateway Pundit and The California Globe, and has been shared on social media sites Facebook and Twitter by conservatives, including Ohio Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
The study has also been debunked by the Associated Press news agency and Politfact, a fact-checking website affiliated with the Florida-based Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Representatives from both the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford’s medical school told AP Vainshelboim does not work at either institution.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security senior scholar Dr. Amesh Adalja told Poltifact the study “does not provide any strong evidence for the statement,” that masks are inefficient at preventing the spread of the infection.
“There has never been a question that a mask decreases the chance a symptomatic person spreads COVID,” Adalja said.