UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article, Breitbart News has been alerted to a photo of Senator Tillis going without a mask at an event in the Oval Office on the day Judge Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court. This article’s headline and text have been updated to include that information.
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) contracted the Chinese coronavirus following last week’s Rose Garden event — in which President Trump announced his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. He wore a mask at the portion of nomination event that occurred in the Rose Garden but did not wear one during an indoor gathering in the Oval Office.
“Thom Tillis wore a mask at the event in the Rose Garden- he has tested positive,” journalist Heather Childers reported on Saturday. A photo also shows Tillis wearing a mask at the event. Despite that, he has since contracted the virus:
Thom Tillis wore a mask at the event in the Rose Garden- he has tested positive.
— Heather Childers (@HeatherChilders) October 3, 2020
‼️@GOP senators in the 2nd row at the WH #SuperSpreader event—Lee and Tillis (gray mask in middle) both tested POSITIVE. Next to them—fellow @senjudiciary members Blackburn, Crapo, Hawley and Sasse. All attended committee meeting together yesterday, distanced but NO MASKS.😷 pic.twitter.com/Us6ONjKhOM
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) October 3, 2020
However, the New York Times, among other outlets, published a photo of Sen. Tillis mingling mask-less in the Oval Office, conversing with Judge Barrett.
On Friday, Tillis announced that he, in addition to fellow Senate Judiciary Committee member Mike Lee (R-UT), had contracted the novel virus:
Tonight my COVID-19 test came back positive. I’m following the recommendations of my doctor. Thankfully, I have no symptoms and feel well. COVID is a very contagious virus. If you were exposed or start to display symptoms, please call your doctor, self-isolate, and get tested. pic.twitter.com/fwc826dkvQ
— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) October 3, 2020
His spokesperson, Adam Webb, provided an update on Saturday, revealing that the senator is experiencing “mild symptoms,” although he does not have a fever.
“Senator Tillis continues to self-isolate at home in North Carolina and has mild symptoms, no fever, and he is in great spirits,” he wrote.
“Thom and his wife Susan are grateful for the prayers and well wishes they’ve received from North Carolinians,” he added.
The efficacy of universal masking has remained a point of contention since the beginning of the pandemic, and experts have sent mixed signals. In March, Dr. Anthony Fauci did not recommend such a policy.
“The masks are important for someone who’s infected to prevent them from infecting someone else… Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director said at the time.
“There’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” he continued, suggesting that masks may play a greater role in providing psychological relief.
“When you’re in the middle of an outbreak, wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not providing the perfect protection that people think that it is,” he said.
“And, often, there are unintended consequences — people keep fiddling with the mask and they keep touching their face,” he added.
While he has since adjusted his stance, Fauci has acted in contradiction to his newfound position, attending a baseball game with a mask hanging around his chin over the summer:
And there’s Dr. Anthony Fauci showing us all he knows exactly how well masks work! Thanks for the lesson, doc. pic.twitter.com/jdHPzq5HfB
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) July 24, 2020
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing masks, the public health institute states that it only “may” help “prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.”
Nonetheless, recent studies reveal a lack of consensus on the controversial subject, as Breitbart News detailed in July:
The CDC released a study on Tuesday based on two hairstylists in Missouri who tested positive for the virus but did not transmit the virus to any of their 139 clients.
“With the potential for presymptomatic and asymptomatic transmission, widespread adoption of policies requiring face coverings in public settings should be considered to reduce the impact and magnitude of additional waves of COVID-19,” the CDC wrote.
While the CDC cites previous studies showing that “both surgical masks and homemade cloth face coverings can reduce the aerosolization of virus into the air and onto surfaces,” it notes that “no studies have examined SARS-CoV-2 transmission directly.” Nonetheless, the CDC states that “data from previous epidemics support the use of universal face coverings as a policy to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, as does observational data for COVID-19 in an analysis of 194 countries that found a negative association between duration of a face mask or respirator policy and per-capita coronavirus-related mortality.”
However, other studies emphasize the lack of a consensus on the matter. The New England Journal of Medicine, in a May study titled “Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era,” stated, “We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection”
The New England Journal of Medicine study also referred to masks as “visible reminders of an otherwise invisible yet widely prevalent pathogen and may remind people of the importance of social distancing and other infection-control measures” and added that they play “symbolic roles” and may contribute to a “perceived sense of safety.”
However, the Journal later provided an update, claiming that the intent of the article was to “push for more masking, not less.”
In August, Duke University researchers found that several types of face coverings, including neck gaiters, “are actually worse than going without a mask, breaking down large droplets into smaller particles and allowing them to escape,” as Breitbart News reported:
The researchers tested 14 different face coverings, with the wearer speaking “into the direction of an expanded laser beam inside a dark enclosure.”
“Droplets that propagate through the laser beam scatter light, which is recorded with a cell phone camera. A simple computer algorithm is used to count the droplets in the video,” researchers explained.
While the study showed an N95 proving to be the most effective, it also found fleece coverings and neck gaiters to be worse than going maskless, as they break down larger respiratory droplets, creating smaller droplets which can escape.
CDC Director Robert Redfield has claimed that masking is “not a political issue — it’s a public health issue.”
Earlier this week, Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who earned the nickname “Commie Tommy” due to his stringent lockdown orders, and State Rep. Wendy Ullman (D) were caught on a hot mic seemingly referring to wearing masks as “political theater.”
“Wendy, I’m going to, I’m going to take my mask off before I speak,” he said.
“I will as well. I’m waiting so we can do a little political theater,” she replied, prompting a laugh:
I hope every person in Pennsylvania sees this video! The Governor is killing your states economy for “political theater.” https://t.co/u5srZrmPYK
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) September 29, 2020
The governor’s press office has claimed that the clip is out of context and “being pushed by an extreme fringe that believes COVID-19 is a hoax.”
“Everyone should wear a mask and social distance, widely accepted measures outlined by every public health organization,” his office added.