A Missouri newspaper is standing by its recent reporting on COVID-19 mask mandates after it drew criticism from Gov. Mike Parson (R).
“Our story — which included all documents and data supporting it — speaks for itself. We stand behind our reporting,” Editor-in-Chief of The Missouri Independent Jason Hancock told The Star News Network.
In a story titled “Missouri health department found mask mandates work, but didn’t make findings public,” The Missouri Independent claimed that data from The Documenting COVID-19 Project proves that mask mandates led to a lower COVID-19 positivity rate than counties that did not implement mask mandates.
The data is based on COVID-19 positivity rates from four counties where masks were mandated during the summer wave of Delta variant cases, versus counties where such mandates were not implemented.
“The statewide data shows that, from the end of April to the end of October, jurisdictions with mask mandates experienced an average of 15.8 cases per day for every 100,000 residents compared to 21.7 cases per day for every 100,000 residents in unmasked communities,” the report says.
To help prove its point, The Missouri Independent cited a Nov. email from the Director of Missouri Health and Senior Services (HSS) Donald Kauerauf to HHS Assistant Bureau Chief Nathan Koffarnus.
“I think we can say with great confidence reviewing the public health literature and then looking at the results in your study that communities where masks were required had a lower positivity rate per 100,000 and experienced lower death rates,” Kauerauf said in that email.
But The Missouri Independent did not include the first half of the email from Kauernauf, which says the following:
“As you stated, there are ‘lots’ of variables that must be considered before we can definitively assess the impact of wearing a mask (or not wearing a mask) in Missouri before and during the primary Delta period.”
Instead, the paper paraphrased, saying there are “a number of variables that impact infection and death rates” but the “effectiveness of masks is clear.”
Whether masks were the sole cause, or even a cause, of the lower rates of COVID-19 in the counties with mask mandates is speculative.
Parson blasted the news outlet.
“Rudi Keller, a political blogger for the Missouri Independent, wrote a purposefully misleading article titled ‘Missouri Health Department found Mask Mandates Work, but Didn’t Make Findings Public,’” the governor said on Twitter. “He handpicked information from a Sunshine request then took the data out of context in order to fit his narrative. He left out important information that provides context for the whole story. This type of ‘so called’ reporting is unethical and needs to stop because it misleads the public and poses a danger to the credibility of our institutions.”
Parson’s office declined to comment further on Monday morning.
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