Fact Check

Is This a Picture of Biden and Harris in a Crowd Without Face Masks?

Believe it or not, there was a time in the United States when face masks were not required to slow the spread of a deadly disease.

Published Aug. 20, 2020

 (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Image Via Scott Olson/Getty Images
An image collage shows former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris without masks in August 2020, suggesting they were flouting public health guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August 2020, as the Democratic party officially nominated former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as their 2020 presidential candidate and Sen. Kamala Harris of California as their pick for Vice President in virtual proceedings amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a collage of images was circulated online that supposedly showed the duo in a crowd without face masks:

harris biden face masks

These are genuine photographs of Biden and Harris; however, they were not taken in August 2020. They were snapped before cities in the United States implemented regulations, such as the use of face masks and limits on crowd sizes, to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease.

These images come from a campaign rally held on March 9, 2020, in Detroit, Michigan. At the time, the Democratic field was thinning out, and Biden's former competitors, such as Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, were offering their endorsements of the former vice president:


Although the initial cases of COVID-19 had already been found in the United States at that time, the first lockdowns weren't implemented in states until a few weeks after this event. California was the first state to order a COVID-19 related lockdown on March 19, and in Michigan, where this rally was held, lockdowns weren't ordered until March 24.

At the national level, it wasn't until early April that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines recommending the use of face masks in public to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In other words, these images truly show Biden and Harris in a large crowd, not wearing masks. However, the photographs were taken weeks before face masks and other social distancing guidelines were first implemented in the United States.


Dwyer, Colin and Allison Aubrey. "CDC Now Recommends Americans Consider Wearing Cloth Face Coverings in Public."     NPR.   3 April 2020.

Click On Detroit.   "Michigan Coronavirus Timeline: Key Dates, COVID-19 Case Tracking, State Orders."     Retrieved 20 August 2020.

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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