Conspiracy theories are swirling following the announcement that President Joe Biden plans to wear a face mask indoors after First Lady Jill Biden contracted COVID-19.
Jill Biden’s communications director Elizabeth Alexander confirmed on Monday night that the first lady tested positive for the virus but was experiencing “only mild symptoms.” On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the president was symptom-free and had twice tested negative but would be “masking while indoors and around people.”
The rise of new COVID variants has recently caused a spike in cases and prompted some experts to express concerns about public health heading into the fall. While only a small number of local mask mandates are currently in effect around the country, Republicans have increasingly been raging about the potential for a comeback of restrictions like mask mandates and lockdowns.
The announcement that Biden would return to wearing a mask due to the first lady’s illness sparked some online commentators to baselessly suggest that nationwide restrictions were imminent. Some specifically praised the predictions of Infowars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who last month claimed that “full COVID restrictions” would be imposed in mid-September.
While there is no evidence that the federal government has plans to impose any mask mandates or other new requirements regarding COVID, a post to the Infowars website on Tuesday claimed that Biden donning a mask was only the beginning of “the deep state getting ready for more medical tyranny”—a sentiment that was echoed by some on X, formerly Twitter.
“Joe Biden will be officially wearing a mask again,” right-wing commentator Rogan “DC Draino” O’Handley posted. “Alex Jones was right They’re bringing back masks”
“Biden is wearing a mask again,” posted conservative journalist Kyle Becker. “The fix is in. They are bringing back Covid hysteria for the election”
“Now that Jill Biden tested positive for covid, the Biden administration is reportedly preparing for another nationwide mask and quarantine mandate,” account The Trump Train posted. “Are you going to comply with more Covid restrictions? YES or NO?”
“Biden is wearing a mask today! I will be violating his mask mandate,” posted comedian and pro-Trump commentator Terrence K. Williams. “Who’s with me”
“Lol. 2024 has arrived early,” user @ElliotKHudson posted. “Democrats love their Nazi lockdowns Biden Will Start Wearing a Mask, White House Says”
“It’s official: Joe Biden will start wearing a mask again,” posted the Young Americans for Liberty account. “The push has begun.”
“Biden will be wearing a mask,” conservative journalist Libby Emmons posted. “They’re really going to try to do this.”
“Biden will get Covid and die,” @shooflyholypie claimed in a response to Emmons. “That is how they will say it is deadly and lockdown again.”
Newsweek reached out for comment to the White House via email on Tuesday.
Biden appeared at the White House on Tuesday afternoon while wearing a face mask but quickly took the mask off during a ceremony to award a Medal of Honor to 81-year-old retired Army Captain Larry Taylor.
Jean-Pierre had said earlier in the day that the president would remove his mask “when sufficiently distanced from others indoors and while outside.”