Fears regarding the outbreak of the new coronavirus, now named COVID-19, have led to a lot of rumors circulating online.
There are so many rumors that VERIFY will now compile a week’s worth of coronavirus fact-checks every Friday. That way, you can easily find every fact-check the team has made about the coronavirus every week.
Here are the fact-checks for the week of March 13:
Pandemics are about spread, not severity
The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic earlier this week. That distinction refers to its sudden spread across the globe and has nothing to do with the severity of the disease. The WHO said this doesn’t change anything in terms of the virus’s threat, what the WHO will do, what they believe countries should do or what they recommend people to do. They believe the pandemic can be controlled if countries commit to containing it.
Be on the lookout for fake emails claiming to be from the WHO or CDC
Scammers are trying to take advantage of people’s fear surrounding the coronavirus outbreak and get people’s personal information out of it. The WHO said it will never ask you to login to view safety information, never email attachments you didn't ask for or ask you to donate directly to emergency response plans or funding appeals. The Federal Trade Commission said these phishing emails may ask you to donate to victims, offer advice on unproven treatments or contain malicious email attachments. The WHO and the Center for Disease Control will not send you an unsolicited email asking you for personal information.
You can change your flight over coronavirus fears this month
While the exact stipulations change from airline to airline, many major airlines are waiving change fees for flights in March amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The airlines aren’t issuing full refunds -- they’re giving you credit to purchase another flight sometime within the next 12 months.
People can still go to the grocery store under nationwide quarantine in Italy
Italians must declare a reason to leave their homes while under quarantine, but they can still leave their homes as long as they give a valid reason. This can include going to work, shopping for essential items such as groceries or medicine or going to the park for some solitary exercise. This is even after the Italian government tightened restrictions a few days after announcing them.
Major disease outbreaks are unrelated to election years
An image of a whiteboard claiming that there was a major disease outbreak every midterm and presidential election year gained traction on social media. In order to make the years workout, the claim had to generously round up or down some dates on disease outbreaks, cherry picked specific years in long-lasting outbreaks and even got the years for some outbreaks completely wrong. For example, the board listed SARS as a 2004 outbreak when it emerged in 2002 and the WHO said the epidemic ended in 2003.
You will not be tested for COVID-19 when you donate blood
While blood centers do test you for diseases that transmit through blood when you donate blood, COVID-19 is not one of those diseases and thus doesn’t get tested for. In fact, if you’re not feeling well or you have a fever, blood centers turn you away. Blood centers are currently fearing a blood shortage as people isolate themselves amidst the outbreak, so spreading such information is dangerous.
The CDC recommends you use hand sanitizer for 20 seconds
Contrary to claims suggesting that you need to keep hand sanitizer on your hands wet for three to four minutes, the CDC recommends rubbing your hands together for about 20 seconds. This is about as long as it takes until your hands feel dry.