A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the real facts:
CLAIM: If you don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to take a $3,200 test for the virus, donate blood because screeners must test donors for the virus.
THE FACTS: Blood banks said they do not test for the novel coronavirus as part of the donation process, and they caution that people should not go to donation centers if they fear they have been exposed to it. “We do a whole range of testing on blood donations as required by the FDA, but screening or testing for coronavirus is not happening,” said Kate Fry, chief executive officer of America’s Blood Centers, a North American network of nonprofit blood centers. The network oversees more than 600 blood collection sites. Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the American Red Cross, told the AP that screeners do not test for the coronavirus as part of the process. “The last thing we would want is for people who are not healthy coming just to try to get tested,” she said. A tweet claiming blood banks would test people for the virus received more than 250,000 likes this week before it was deleted Wednesday and the person who posted it apologized. Still, the false information continued to circulate on Facebook. The Red Cross has instituted safety protocols and asks those who have traveled in coronavirus outbreak areas, including China and Italy, to wait 28 days before giving blood. Young added there is no data or evidence that coronavirus or respiratory viruses can be transmitted through blood transfusions.
CLAIM: As the weather gets warmer, mosquitoes will spread the coronavirus after they bite people who are infected.
THE FACTS: There is no evidence that mosquitoes transmit coronavirus. The World Health Organization addresses the claim on their “myth busters” page, saying: “To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes.” The novel coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. The false mosquito claim spread across social media platforms, including on TikTok, where one post received more than one million likes.
CLAIM: There is a simple self-check that can be done every morning to see if you have the coronavirus. Take a deep breath and hold it for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without discomfort, stuffiness or tightness it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicating no infection.
THE FACTS: Medical experts say that the test would not provide a clear indication of whether someone has the virus. The claim, which has three parts, first says that if a coronavirus patient goes to the hospital too late their lungs will experience 50 percent fibrosis, scarring of the lungs that restricts breathing. It then suggests the 10 second breathing test, finally stating that drinking water every 15 minutes will kill the virus. Social media users have falsely attributed the claims to Japanese doctors, Taiwanese experts and Stanford University. Lisa Kim, Stanford Health Care and school of medicine spokeswoman, said in an email that the widely distributed breathing test claim did not come from Stanford University. Despite medical experts and even the World Health Organization debunking these claims, people continue to share them on and off social media. Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, told The Associated Press that there is no clear evidence that coronavirus causes 50 percent pulmonary fibrosis. Experts also said that the 10 second test being shared online would not be a reliable way to determine whether someone has the virus. “This approach may be helpful in identifying persons with more serious lung disease,” Atmar said. “But it will not identify persons who are infected and have mild to no symptoms.” There are many things beyond coronavirus that could lead to restricted breathing, including asthma, anxiety or heart disease, said Dr. Gregory Poland, head of vaccine research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Also, while staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it does not prevent coronavirus, according to the WHO.
CLAIM: Actor Daniel Radcliffe tested positive for coronavirus.
THE FACTS: Radcliffe, known widely for his role in the Harry Potter film series, does not have coronavirus despite posts sharing that claim Tuesday. A Twitter account made to closely resemble a BBC News account, with the handle @BBCNewsTonight, spread the claim, which was later retweeted by social media users, including celebrities on their verified accounts. Scott Boute, who represents Radcliffe, told The Associated Press in an email that the claim was not true. Screenshots of the tweet with the claim continued to circulate on Facebook after the false Tweet was taken down. “Breaking: Daniel Radcliffe tests positive for coronavirus,” the tweet reads. “The actor is said to be the first famous person to be publicly confirmed.” The tweet from the impostor account included a link that took users to a BBC News Alerts page with posts from 2017. The fake account had about 125 followers; the verified BBC Breaking News Twitter account has 41.7 million. A Twitter spokesperson told the AP that the account was suspended for violating Twitter’s rules on platform manipulation. Jemimah Norman, a spokesperson for the BBC, also confirmed to the AP that the tweet was from an account not affiliated with the BBC.
CLAIM: President Donald Trump tweeted on Feb. 25, 2015: “If the Dow Jones ever falls more than 1000 ‘points’ in a Single Day the sitting president should be ‘loaded’ into a very big cannon and Shot into the sun at TREMENDOUS SPEED! No excuses!”
THE FACTS: The tweet was not written by Trump. It was fabricated and it was first posted in 2018, not 2015. Social media users recirculated a screenshot of the fabricated tweet Monday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2,013 points. It was created in 2018 to make it appear Trump tweeted it when Barack Obama was president. The steep drop in the Dow, following concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus and a crash in oil prices, led to an automatic halt in trading on the New York Stock Exchange, a step that had not been taken in two decades. Shaun Usher, author and blogger, first shared the post in 2018 as a joke and later said he did not intend for his tweet to be taken seriously. On Monday, he addressed the tweet again after retweeting a Snopes fact check of the tweet. The screenshot of the false tweet was shared on Twitter and Facebook where it received thousands of likes. Many of the posts shared the false image with comments suggesting that Trump’s words were coming back to haunt him. Trump did tweet about the stock market on Monday, writing: “Saudi Arabia and Russia are arguing over the price and flow of oil. That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!”