Zeynep Tufekci: “Why Telling People They Didn’t Need Masks Backfired”

March 17, 2020

In her latest op-ed for the New York Times, UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Associate Professor Zeynep Tufekci explains why telling people they didn't need masks to protect themselves from coronavirus COVID-19 misfired and possibly even fueled hoarding.

Contradictory messages about the protection provided by masks made people distrust authorities, Tufekci writes.  Instead of sending mixed signals, Tufekci argues, officials should have told people the “full painful truth” and encouraged anyone hoarding masks to donate some of their supply to local medical workers.

“We will no doubt face many challenges as the pandemic moves through our societies, and people will need to cooperate,” Tufekci says. “The sooner we create the conditions under which such cooperation can bloom, the better off we all will be.”

Click here to read the full column in the Times.

Tufekci had previously written an analysis of China's response to the virus for The Atlantic and a guide to preparing for the virus for Scientific American.