Matt Light falsely claimed wearing masks have ‘no real effect’ in limiting COVID-19 spread

Light also wrongly asserted that the CDC-reported COVID-19 case numbers "aren't real."

Matt Light
Matt Light speaking during a halftime ceremony in which he was honored for being inducted into the Patriots' Hall of Fame in 2018. –Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

As football season approaches, the debate continues about its viability amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Several  Patriots players have already announced that they are opting out of the 2020 season due to the risk of COVID-19.

One former Patriot has a different view.

Matt Light, an offensive lineman on three Super Bowl-winning teams between 2001 and 2011, elaborated on his personal view of COVID-19, the national response to the pandemic, and its societal implications in a Tuesday morning interview on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.”

“I want people to see this beautiful face,” Light responded when asked if he wears a mask. “I can’t cover it up. It’s not going to happen.”

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He followed up by saying that, despite numerous studies demonstrating the efficacy of masks to limit the spread of COVID-19, he claims they “have no real effect.”

“I respect anybody’s decision to wear a mask or not wear a mask,” Light said. “The science is real clear on masks, right? There is no need to interpret whether it helps saves lives or not. It doesn’t. It has no real effect. It makes you feel comfy and warm inside maybe, but it doesn’t do anything in the grand scheme of things.”

This claim directly contradicts both analysis from public health experts as well as scientific evidence.

The official policy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone two years or older wear a mask or face covering “in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Light could not be immediately reached for comment by Boston.com.

Light also expressed his doubt over the officially listed COVID-19 case numbers from the CDC.

“I don’t like being lied to, either,” Light said of his view regarding the CDC data. “Here’s what I do know: I believe the people like my brother, who runs an [emergency room] in Columbus [Ohio]. I believe the countless other doctors and nurses that I talk to and their viewpoint on what they’re seeing in real time. I don’t believe what the news tells me. I know for a fact that the numbers aren’t real.”

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In response to Light, WEEI hosts offered no pushback regarding his claims.

“Preach,” responded co-host (and fellow former Patriot) Jermaine Wiggins. The hosts then asked Light an unrelated question about whether he would prefer having Tom Brady or Bill Belichick on his football team.

Looking at the college football season, which has already seen several conferences and schools cancel their seasons, Light thinks it’s a mistake to call off games on account of the pandemic.

“It seems as though there is this kind of crazy effort in the world to shut things down,” Light noted, “so I’m kind of leaning towards a lot of people that are in the positions of power not doing the right thing and canceling a season and creating a whole lot of fear. That’s where I’m at right now. Now I’m hoping it doesn’t go that way, but we’ve seen a number of conferences make that decision, and unfortunately that is the talk right now.”

In his view, Light, who supported Republican Geoffrey Diehl in his ultimately unsuccessful 2018 Senate bid, thinks that individuals should be trusted to make choices for themselves.

“I think that for a situation like we’re in now, we have enough knowledge to know that people can make good decisions,” he explained. “When we keep taking the decision making process out of the hands of the people and we put it in the hands of the control of the very few, the elite — the politicians or whoever it may be — aren’t we losing the heart and soul of this country when we say that we’re not able to make sound decisions? We need others to make it for us, and at the end of the day, that’s kind of what has me the most disappointed in where we are now.”

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Light’s claims are also contradicted by analysis of the U.S. response to the pandemic. In a recent interview with ABC News, five former directors of the CDC under both Democrat and Republican administrations said it was the opposite — a lack of leadership — that was more responsible for the nation’s problematic handling of the virus. The international response to COVID-19 has also reportedly been hampered by a lack of U.S. leadership.

As of Aug. 10, the U.S. had officially registered more than five million COVID-19 cases, with 161,842 deaths. Both of those represent totals higher than any other nation in the world.


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