Fact check: Viral post that claims COVID-19 is a fraud cites no evidence – USA TODAY

The claim: COVID-19 is a ‘fraud’

Misinformation about the new coronavirus has been rampant on social media in recent months, further perpetuated by the conspiracy theory movement QAnon

Claims about the effectiveness of masks and the symptoms, origin and meaning of COVID-19 all contribute to one larger false claim: COVID-19 is not real.

One Facebook post claimed COVID-19 is a “fraud,” listing seven vague reasons why and citing no sources or evidence. The poster did not respond to request for comment.

The reasons, according to the post: “COVID-19 is NOT killing people, weak immune systems and bad doctors are. The tests are rigged. The death count is false. Masks are useless. Hand sanitizer is toxic. Vaccines are poison. The government and media are lying.”

We’ll assess the truth of each claim.

‘COVID-19 is NOT killing people, weak immune systems and bad doctors are’

The claim that COVID-19 is not actually a cause of death gained traction in late summer, when the Centers for Disease Controland Prevention released statistics about the impact of preexisting conditions on those who contract the virus.

We rate this claim as false, as it has been debunked in previous fact checks. While a preexisting condition or comorbidity may have exacerbated or contributed to the cause of death, it is not the sole reason why someone died.

For example, those with asthma are at a higher risk of complications from COVID-19. If they contracted the virus and died, their asthma didn’t kill them, the virus did. 

Additionally, there is no known cure for the virus, so doctors and nurses work to treat and manage the virus using various practices that have proven effective.

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‘The tests are rigged’

The post did not specify how coronavirus tests are supposedly rigged. Regardless, there is not a massive global conspiracy to deliver inaccurate results or skew data.

Testing availability and reporting of cases varies by city and state, and even further by institutions like universities or school districts.

Scientists and medical experts have explained that we learn more about the virus every day, including how testing accuracy can be improved and how effective mitigation efforts are. 

Our ruling: This claim is false. There is not a large scale conspiracy effort to falsify the results of coronavirus tests. Additionally, as scientists and public health experts learn more about the virus, testing accuracy improves.

‘The death count is false’

The post was not specific and did not clarify whether they were claiming the death count was inflated or reduced.

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States has surpassed 200,000 and the international death toll is nearing 980,000.

Many conspiracies have emerged that argue the COVID-19 death toll has been inflated, but experts argue it’s likely the opposite, citing lack of testing, false negatives and uncounted home deaths. 

That is to say, the death count is not “false” because it has been inflated, it may actually be much higher than reports suggest.

Our ruling: This claim is false. While the post did not specify how the death count is supposedly false, context clues would point to the post believing the death count has been exaggerated. However, health experts say the exact opposite, COVID-19 deaths may be significantly undercounted. 

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‘Masks are useless’

When the U.S. outbreak first started, health officials and organizations said masks needed to be reserved for health care workers on the front lines, given the shortage of personal protective equipment. At the start, there were also questions about how effective masks would be in mitigating transmission of the virus.

As more is learned about the virus, masks have proven to be very effective in helping to slow the transmission of COVID-19. Recently, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said masks may ultimately be more helpful than a vaccine in the fight against the virus.

“I am going to comment as the CDC director that face masks, these face masks, are the most important powerful public health tool we have,” Redfield said. 

Our ruling: This claim is false. Scientists and other public health officials have made it clear — and research has further confirmed — that masks are currently the most effective way to slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

‘Hand sanitizer is toxic’

Despite many warnings at the local and national level, some Americans are still ingesting cleaning and bleach products in an attempt to self-treat the virus. 

When used properly, hand sanitizer — like other cleaning products — is not toxic.

That being said, it’s important that consumers are informed about the products they purchase. In July, the Food and Drug Administration warned the American public to avoid various imported hand sanitizers, citing reports of injuries — both from general use and ingestion — associated with the products.

Additionally, the FDA has a running list of hand sanitizing products that should be avoided. 

Our ruling: This claim is partly false. Hand sanitizer, when used appropriately, is not “toxic.” It is true that consumers should reference the FDA list of imported sanitizers to stay informed about the sanitizers they should avoid.

‘Vaccines are poison’

The anti-vaccine movement has been on the rise in recent years, and many of the theories employed by the movement are now being directed at the COVID-19 vaccine before it is released. 

Generally speaking, the anti-vax movement believes that vaccines are poisonous and dangerous, which is not accurate

According to the CDC, the general cycle for the development of new vaccines has six stages; exploratory stage, pre-clinical stage, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, manufacturing and quality control. 

Development of a typical vaccine can have a timeline of years, but due to factors such as prioritization and global interest, the COVID-19 vaccine timeline may be much shorter.

To ensure that the virus vaccine is safe — and not poisonous — the same strict protocol is being followed.

According to the World Health Organization, as of Sept. 22, there are 38 vaccines in the clinical evaluation stage, another 149 are in the pre-clinical evaluation.

Our ruling: This claim is false. Despite what the anti-vax movement says, vaccines are not released to the public until they are safe. The U.S. has a strict policy for vaccine development and approval, which the COVID-19 vaccine must abide by. 

‘The government and media are lying’

Since the statement is vague and the person who posted it did not respond to request for comment, it’s hard to know what exactly the person believes the government and media are lying about.

While certain government officials or media outlets may inaccurately report certain points, the facts about the new coronavirus are simple.

First and foremost, COVID-19 is a real virus. There are more than 32 million reported infections and 979,000 deaths globally. In the United States, the reported case count is almost 7 million and the reported death count is over 200,000. 

The elderly and those with preexisting conditions are more susceptible to complications from the virus, but good health and youth don’t guarantee a complication-free experience. 

According to medical experts, the best mitigation strategy we have is to wear masks in public and socially distance when possible. There is no exact date for the release of a vaccine, but when one is released it will have followed the appropriate protocol to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Our ruling: This claim is false. While there are politicians and reports that don’t tell the full story or misconstrue facts, neither the government or the media are actively working to misinform the public about the coronavirus. 

Our rating: False

Overall, the claims in this post are FALSE, based on our research. Each claim has previously been debunked by medical experts and other organizations. Only a portion of the claim on hand sanitizer has a bit of truth, that consumer should be wary of some particular ingredients in hand sanitizer. But the overarching statement that sanitizer is toxic is unfounded. Additionally, the post did not provide any citations or evidence to support the claims. 

Our fact check sources:

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Author: The Covid-19 Channel