The claim: A photo shows a woman wearing a surgical mask while in the ocean
This summer, as Americans return to beach towns hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, the highly contagious delta variant threatens to upend vacation plans. Some states have reinstituted COVID-19 restrictions, and public health officials recommend wearing face masks indoors again – even if you're vaccinated.
A recent viral Facebook post claims some people are going to great lengths to get a little sun at the beach.
A series of photos published July 24 on Facebook appear to show people wearing surgical face masks while in the ocean.
"My gahhhhhhhd JUST STAY TF HOME," reads the post, which has more than 105,000 shares.
One widely shared photo in the series shows a young woman chest deep in bright blue water, a surgical mask covering her mouth and nose. In the background, a man, also apparently masked, stands in the water.
Some parts of the world have mandated face masks at the beach at certain points during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the photo in the post doesn't show a woman swimming with a face mask – it's an altered image.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment.
Photo is manipulated
Some commenters on the Facebook post noticed something a little off about the image: The woman's reflection in the water doesn't show a face mask, a telltale sign of photo manipulation.
A reverse image search confirms their suspicion.
Russian photographer Vladimir Grigorev posted the same photo to a stock photo site. In the original image, purportedly taken in 2014, the woman isn't wearing a face mask.
An altered version of the photo, also posted by Grigorev, appears on a different stock image site. In the new image, masks are superimposed on the faces of the woman and the man in the background.
USA TODAY reached out to Grigorev for comment. USA TODAY could not verify the authenticity of the rest of the images in the Facebook post.
Our rating: Altered
Based on our research, we rate ALTERED a photo that claims to show a woman wearing a surgical mask while in the ocean. In 2014, a Russian photographer posted the same photo, except the model isn't wearing a mask.
Our fact-check sources:
Yandex Reverse Image Search, accessed July 29
Google Reverse Image Search, accessed July 29
Bing Image Match, accessed July 29
TinEye Reverse Image Search, accessed July 29
Depositphotos, accessed July 30, Girl standing in sea water
Dreamstime, accessed July 31, Photos of the same model in Image ID 184003506 by Vladimir Grigorev (Grigvovan)
Alamy, accessed July 31, Young caucasian woman basking in the sea in a protective face mask.
University of California-Berkeley, January 2012, Exposing Photo Manipulation with Inconsistent Reflections
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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Viral photo of woman wearing face mask in ocean is fake