Drawing flak in mid-August for improperly wearing his face mask in public, thereby violating health protocols to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), lawyer Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon, in a Facebook (FB) video, justified his actions with false and misleading claims.
In an Aug. 17 live FB video, Gadon, who ran and lost in the 2019 senatorial race, told his more than 1.2 million followers that wearing such protective covers, on top of face shields and motorcycle barriers, was “too much,” further claiming that:
- there are “many scientific studies” saying masks should be worn only in enclosed spaces, such as in elevators and conference rooms, and not outdoors;
- masks are “not that important.” Sweden, which did not require the wearing of masks in public, has “few deaths” due to COVID-19;
- if one’s throat is itchy or sore, simply drinking vodka would “kill” all “germs and bacteria of that COVID (sic)”;
- more people recover from COVID-19 at home than in hospitals; and
- COVID-19 is “curable.” Just drink traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or steroids, along with antibiotics at the onset of symptoms.
The FB video has since been viewed at least a million times, and garnered over 81,800 total interactions, and continues to be shared to this day. It also has a potential reach of more than 4.48 million people, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.
Reacting to Gadon’s inaccurate claims, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire in an Aug. 17 press briefing called him out, saying such statements are “not helping us at all.” Vergeire said it is the health care workers who will be burdened, should people contract COVID-19 because they followed wrong information.
Among Gadon’s five claims in the FB video, two are downright false, two need further context, and one is misleading. VERA Files Fact Check looked into each one:
Read on to know more about each claim.
On masks being worn only in enclosed spaces
While there is no “high quality or direct scientific evidence” yet to support the widespread use of masks by the general public, including healthy people, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said:
“…to prevent COVID-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) transmission.”
Source: World Health Organization, Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, June 5, 2020
These include public settings such as grocery stores, at work, social or mass gatherings, closed areas (like schools, churches or mosques), public transportation, and other areas where there is high transmission of the virus, or where at least two meters physical distancing is not possible.
A systematic review commissioned by WHO and published in medical journal The Lancet in June found that face mask use “could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.”
“[W]earing face masks protects people (both health-care workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses, and that eye protection could confer additional benefit.”
However, none of these interventions, including a prescribed physical distance, provide complete protection from infection, the review added.
“Medical masks can protect people from getting infected as well as prevent the spread from those that are infected,” a global team of public health experts convened by nonprofit Meedan said in an online COVID-19 database.
On Sweden recording ‘few’ COVID-19 deaths despite not requiring general public to wear masks
While it is true that Sweden has neither implemented lockdowns nor required the wearing of masks, it has a significantly higher tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths compared to other Nordic countries at the time Gadon made the claim.
It had the highest case fatality rate (CFR) among the region at 6.86 percent, having registered 5,783 deaths out of its 84,294 confirmed individuals infected, based on WHO reported data as of Aug. 16. The world average CFR was 3.58 percent at the time.
Sweden was also first in terms of mortality rate per 100,000 population at 56.23 percent, followed by Denmark at 10.67 percent, and Finland at 6.03 percent, using 2019 population data from the World Bank.
There are multiple factors that contribute to a country’s death figures, including the age of the population, testing capacity and strategy in detecting cases, reporting of cases and deaths, and standard of care, among others. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Duterte’s remark that PH has low mortality rate needs context; VERA FILES FACT SHEET: COVID-19 numbers used in measuring success of gov’t response explained)
In a public bulletin last updated in mid August, the Sweden Public Health Agency said, while scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mask use is still “uncertain” — hence not mandatory — there may be “situations where mouth protection can [be] of value.”
It added that oral protection should “always be seen as a complement to other more central risk-reducing measures” such as staying at home in case of symptoms and good hygiene as there may be a risk of false sense of security of masks.
On vodka killing germs, bacteria, COVID-19 virus
Drinking alcohol, such as vodka, “does not protect an individual against COVID-19” and “can be dangerous,” according to WHO.
Meedan’s public health experts said alcohol consumption could “worsen COVID-19 symptoms” and “weaken the body’s ability to fight the virus if a person has lowered immunity.”
It also poses other “negative health consequences,” such as motor and cognitive impairments, mental health impacts, violence, pregnancy impacts, and carcinogenic exposure, among others, they said.
“Excessive consumption of alcohol is a risk factor for many diseases, and alcohol should only be consumed in moderation, if at all,” the Meedan experts added.
On COVID-19 being ‘curable’
While some western, traditional, or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of mild COVID-19, “there are no medicines that have shown to prevent or cure the disease,” according to WHO.
COVID-19 is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) not a bacteria; thus, antibiotics do not work against it, WHO said. (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral posts FALSELY claim COVID-19 is thrombosis, bacterial in nature)
Meedan experts cautioned against taking antibiotics unless prescribed by a doctor. They said antibiotics are used in COVID-19 patients but “only to treat secondary bacterial infections.”
Based on initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom, the benefit of dexamethasone, a steroid used to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, was seen only in patients seriously ill with COVID-19, and was not observed in patients with “milder disease.”
In a June 17 press release, DOH cautioned the public against non-prescribed use of dexamethasone without any supervision of a doctor.
There are several ongoing clinical trials of both western and traditional medicines. That said, WHO does not recommend self-medication, including antibiotics, as prevention and cure.
On more people recovering from home than in hospitals
In the Philippines, 91.1 percent of the 49,094 confirmed active COVID-19 patients as of Aug. 17 were experiencing mild symptoms but with stable vital signs, and 6.5 percent were asymptomatics, based on DOH data. Hence, they were not required to have themselves admitted to a treatment facility.
Per a memorandum released by the Department of Interior and Local Government on July 17, asymptomatic patients or those with mild COVID-19 symptoms may opt to go on home quarantine only if:
- they have their own room with a separate bathroom; and
- they are not living with others who are vulnerable to the disease, such as those with comorbidities, senior citizens, or pregnant women.
Under the government’s “Oplan Kalinga” program, COVID-19 patients who are “unable to observe the home quarantine protocols set by the government will be transferred to isolation facilities.” (See VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Roque contradicts Año on COVID house-to-house operations, blames gov’t critics)
If an individual has a cough, fever, or difficulty in breathing — one is advised to seek medical care early.
Gadon — who is known for moving to impeach former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in 2018 and for hurling expletives against her supporters — is not the first to spread misinformation about wearing face masks. (See VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Face masks misconceptions debunked)
This is the fourth time he has been flagged by VERA Files Fact Check for spreading disinformation. See:
- VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Gadon falsely claims SC denied ABS-CBN petition for TRO
- VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Senate hopeful Gadon wrong on 1987 charter
- VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Gadon gets two things wrong in rant vs. SWS, Pulse Asia
People’s Television Network official Facebook, Usap-usapan ngayon sa social media ang paraan ng pagsusuot ng face mask ni Atty. Larry Gadon, Aug. 15, 2020
Official Gazette of the Philippines, Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines with Amendments as of July 16, 2020
Department of Health, Administrative Order No. 2020-015: Guidelines on the Risk-Based Public Health Standards for COVID-19 Mitigation, April 27, 2020
Atty Larry Gadon official Facebook page, FACE SHIELD x FACE MASK…, Aug. 17, 2020
Department of Health official Facebook, DOH Media Forum, Aug. 17, 2020
Face masks should be worn in public settings
- World Health Organization, Advice on the use of masks in the context of COVID-19, June 5, 2020
- World Health Organization, Public health surveillance for COVID-19: interim guidance, Aug. 7, 2020
- Leung, N.H.L., Chu, D.K.W., Shiu, E.Y.C. et al. (2020). Respiratory virus shedding in exhaled breath and efficacy of face masks. Retrieved on Sept. 17, 2020
- MacIntyre, C. R., & Chughtai, A. A. (2020). A rapid systematic review of the efficacy of face masks and respirators against coronaviruses and other respiratory transmissible viruses for the community, healthcare workers and sick patients. Retrieved on Sept. 17, 2020
- Li T, Liu Y, Li M, Qian X, Dai SY (2020) Mask or no mask for COVID-19: A public health and market study. Retrieved on Sept. 17, 2020
- Department of Health, Press Release: Wearing masks may cut transmission rate by 85%, July 10, 2020
- Chu DK, Akl EA, Duda, S, Solo K, Yaacoub S, Schünemann HJ, COVID-19 Systematic Urgent Review Group Effort (SURGE) study authors (2020). Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Retrieved on Aug. 31, 2020
- World Health Organization, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
- World Health Organization, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), March 11, 2019
- Meedan COVID-19 Expert Database, What do we know so far about face masks and their ability to prevent COVID-19, Aug. 13, 2020
- World Health Organization, Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: implications for infection prevention precautions: Scientific Brief, July 9, 2020
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease: How It Spreads, June 16, 2020
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, How to Wear Masks, Aug. 7, 2020
Sweden no face mask and lockdown policy
- Swedish Public Health Agency, Mouthguard
- World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Situation Report No. 209, Aug. 16, 2020
- The World Bank, Total population of Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Retrieved on Sept. 18, 2020
Vodka does not kill germs, bacteria, and COVID-19 virus
- World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters: Drinking alcohol does not protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous, May 27, 2020
- Meedan COVID-19 Expert Database, Can drinking alcohol prevent or cure COVID-19?, July 3, 2020
COVID-19 should not be treated with self-medication
- World Health Organization, Q&A; on coronaviruses (COVID-19): Is there a vaccine, drug or treatment for COVID-19?, April 17, 2020
- World Health Organization, Q&A; on coronaviruses (COVID-19): Are antibiotics effective in preventing or treating COVID-19?, April 17, 2020
- World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus, NOT by bacteria, June 9, 2020
- Meedan COVID-19 Expert Database, Is there any relationship between the use of antibiotics and treatment of COVID-19?, May 26, 2020
- US National Institutes of Health: COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, Corticosteroids, Aug. 27, 2020
- World Health Organization-Philippines official Facebook, Should I take dexamethasone for COVID-19?, July 1, 2020
- Department of Health-Cordillera Center for Health Development, Updates sa Gamutan Laban sa Covid-19: Dexamethasone
- Department of Health, Press release: DOH cautions public against non-prescribed use of dexamethasone, reiterates no prophylaxis or cure yet for COVID-19, June 17, 2020
COVID-19 patients are not required to stay at hospitals if they have mild symptoms or are asymptomatics
- Department of Interior and Local Government, Memorandum Circular No. 2020-101: Guidelines in the Stricter Conduct of Home Quarantine for Mild and Asymptomatic COVID-19 patients and the implementation of “Oplan Kalinga”, July 17, 2020
- Department of Health official Facebook, BEAT COVID-19 Today Full Weekly Report: Issue 125. Breakdown of Active Cases as of Aug. 29, Aug. 30, 2020
- Official Gazette of the Philippines, IATF Resolution No. 60-A, July 30, 2020
- World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Mythbusters: Most people who get COVID-19 recover from it, May 27, 2020
- Rappler Youtube, Gadon curses, raises middle finger at Sereno supporters, April 9, 2018
(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)