Forest again denied the efficacy of masks and invited a COVID-19 and QAnon conspiracy theorist to hold court.
North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest hosted a press conference Wednesday in which he demanded public schools reopen immediately and denied that masks can help stop the spread of COVID-19 — the same day that Director Robert Redfield of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called them critical.
On the subject of face masks, Forest, who is also the GOP nominee for the state governor race, said, "I don't think that there's any science that backs that up."
He noted that if elected governor, he would lift the statewide mask mandate, adding that the state should not require public school students and teachers to wear masks.
Also invited to speak was Michele Morrow, a nurse and known QAnon and COVID-19 conspiracy theorist.
Teachers have an "immune system of steel" and the mortality rate of coronavirus is similar to that of the flu, Morrow claimed in her press conference remarks. But according to the CDC's most recent data, coronavirus death rates remain roughly six times that of the seasonal flu.
“We have to open our schools for in-school instruction,” Morrow said. “The decisions that have been made over the last four months specifically considering what facilities can and cannot function are not only illogical, they’re also inconsistent.”
The comments were first flagged by American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal opposition research group.
Morrow has a lengthy history of backing COVID conspiracies and other misinformation in the public sphere.
In a Facebook video dated Sept. 16, Morrow told followers that the virus seems to have been mutated by the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and Bill Gates. On July 30, in a video posted to a public Facebook group, she touted hydroxychloroquine as a cure-all treatement for COVID-19; on July 2, she posted a call to protest the medical community for withholding hydroxychloroquine as a treatment option.
On July 3, Morrow instructed her Facebook followers, "Do NOT volunteer to be tested for COVID-19. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!"
Morrow has also reposted QAnon myths on her social media, including an erroneous claim about sex trafficking victims found locked in a Delaware Port shipping container on its way to Europe. QAnon, which alleges many prominent Democrats and celebrities are involved in a cabal of Satan worship and child sex trafficking, has been labeled by the FBI as a domestic terrorist threat.
Forest's and Morrow's comments came on the same day CDC Director Redfield told lawmakers that masks are critical and "the most powerful public health tool" the public has to combat coronavirus — perhaps even more powerful than a vaccine.
Redfield noted that there is clear scientific evidence that masks work and that any potential vaccine rolled out this year would only have about a 70% effectiveness rate.
“If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me," said Redfield. "This face mask will."
Wednesday's press conference isn't the first time Forest has spread anti-science propaganda surrounding masks. In an August campaign stop in Lexington, he said, "There's a lot of scientists and science ... says masks aren't effective during these viruses."
And, at a campaign event July 4, Forest wrongly asserted that multiple experts "have all said for decades, masks do not work with viruses."
Such misinformation has led to broader pushback from Republicans on mask wearing. According to a late August Pew Research poll, 92% of Democrats and left-leaning respondents said they regularly wear a mask in public spaces and businesses, while only 76% of Republicans and right-leaning respondents said they did. In June, only 53% of Republicans and other conservatives said they did.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper's campaign had choice words about his opponent's press conference.
"It's stunning that these elected leaders want to fill up our classrooms today without a safety plan, take away the statewide mask requirement and put our children at risk all to try and make a political splash," said a spokesperson.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.