In the event you find yourself in a bomb shelter during a nuclear explosion with people outside your household, the United States federal government advises that you wear a mask and socially distance yourself if possible. The advice has been on the website Ready.gov since November 11, 2020, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but was highlighted Monday morning by several high-profile Twitter accounts who mocked the suggestion, implying that fall out from nuclear war would be more pressing than any threat of COVID-19.
On Monday, some Twitter accounts flagged the instructions under the “Get Inside” and “Stay Inside” sections of the Ready.gov page regarding nuclear explosions (emphasis added):
Get inside the nearest building to avoid radiation. Brick or concrete are best.
Remove contaminated clothing and wipe off or wash unprotected skin if you were outside after the fallout arrived. Hand sanitizer does not protect against fall out. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, if possible. Do not use disinfectant wipes on your skin.
Go to the basement or middle of the building. Stay away from the outer walls and roof. Try to maintain a distance of at least six feet between yourself and people who are not part of your household. If possible, wear a mask if you’re sheltering with people who are not a part of your household. Children under two years old, people who have trouble breathing, and those who are unable to remove masks on their own should not wear them.
Stay inside for 24 hours unless local authorities provide other instructions. Continue to practice social distancing by wearing a mask and by keeping a distance of at least six feet between yourself and people who not part of your household.
Family should stay where they are inside. Reunite later to avoid exposure to dangerous radiation.
Keep your pets inside.
Commentators like the Conservative Policy Institute’s Rachel Bovard mocked the seemingly COVID-19 based guidance saying, “Gotta remember what’s important in the event a nuclear attack.”
Gotta remember what’s important in the event a nuclear attack https://t.co/sfRJvO5vFp
— Rachel Bovard (@rachelbovard) February 28, 2022
Founder of the 1776 Project PAC and political consultant Ryan Girdusky said, “‘Wear a mask in the event of a nuclear fallout’… from the same government who told kids to hide under a desk in case of a nuclear bomb,” in reference to outdated advice for school children during the height of the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s.
"Wear a mask in the event of a nuclear fallout"… from the same government who told kids to hide under a desk in case of a nuclear bomb https://t.co/BuFDejCeh2
— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) February 28, 2022
Breitbart News’ Amanda House added, “Here we are. 2022. Wear masks during Nuclear War.”
Here we are. 2022. Wear masks during Nuclear War. 👍
— Amanda House (@AmandaLeeHouse) February 28, 2022
There were dozens, if not hundreds, of similar comments deriding the federal government’s priorities and instructions.
While it is true the Biden Administration has not updated that guidance on Ready.gov, the addition of mask wearing and social distancing suggestions were added sometime after the election of President Joe Biden, but still during the Trump Administration in 2020, per the Internet Archive Way Back Machine website.
On November 8, 2020, for example, the Ready.gov site did not contain any reference to masks or social distancing according to an archived version of the website. Sometime between that date and November 11, 2020, the website was updated to include the language, per Way Back Machine.