Jason Richwine writes for National Review Online about a recent attempt to blast Florida’s governor on COVID-19 mask policies.

One of the most disturbing aspects of our pandemic response is how quickly a scientific claim with a weak evidence base can morph into an Official Truth. It’s even more disturbing that journalists — supposedly people charged with questioning authority — have been aggressive enforcers of the party line. They have elevated “but the CDC says . . .” into a mic-dropping argument.

Take the media’s reaction to Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s executive order that allows students to opt out of wearing masks. Part of the order declares, “Forcing students to wear masks lacks a well-grounded scientific justification.” That statement is true. There have been no formal trials comparing student health outcomes with and without mask mandates, and the best non-experimental study (led by Emily Oster at Brown) finds no significant difference in viral spread. Meanwhile, there seems to be little scientific interest at all in whether masks have downsides related to children’s learning and socialization. So of course there is not a “well-grounded scientific justification” for student masking. DeSantis is correct.

Nevertheless, the imperative of school mask mandates has become one of those Official Truths that the media feel obligated to support. So Politifact, working with Kaiser Health News, has declared DeSantis’s statement “false.” The justification for this rating is not the least bit convincing, but in that sense it’s instructive — some reporters will do anything to defend the edicts of the CDC.

The “fact check” starts by dismissing the Oster study, which was cited in DeSantis’s order. To reiterate, her paper finds no significant correlation between mask mandates and COVID cases in Florida schools. However, Politifact says that because the paper is not definitive — a formal experiment could theoretically produce different results — the paper somehow fails to support DeSantis’s claim that student masking “lacks a well-grounded scientific justification.” On the contrary, it remains entirely consistent with that claim. Does Politifact believe that the burden of proof falls on opponents of school masking?