NOT REAL NEWS: Debunking yet more false coronavirus content

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 facts:

CLAIM: Nancy Pelosi snuck $25 million worth of pay raises for Congress into the federal relief bill intended to help Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.


THE FACTS: A proposal in the economic rescue package sets aside $25 million for the House of Representatives but “none of those funds will go to member salaries,” Evan Hollander, the communications director for the House Appropriations Committee, told The Associated Press. After the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package late Wednesday night, social media users began inaccurately claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had secretly stuck in $25 million worth of congressional pay raises. That was not the case. The $25 million appropriation for “salary and expenses” in the House of Representatives was proposed in both versions of the relief package — a GOP-backed proposal earlier in the week and the plan passed by the U.S. Senate Wednesday. The money will be used to buy new equipment and make upgrades to the network so members and their staff can work remotely, Hollander said. It will also be spent on reimbursing costs of the child care center and food service contracts for the House, as well as paying for the House Sergeant-at-Arms, he added. Congressional pay can be raised annually based on a federal cost-of-living formula. However, Congress has voted to reject those increases since 2009, keeping their salaries frozen at $174,000 for a decade.

CLAIM: Breathing the steam from a mixture of boiling water, salt and orange peel will prevent or cure the new coronavirus.

THE FACTS: Steam may help sooth symptoms of the virus, but it will not prevent or cure it. In photo and video posts circulating widely on Facebook and Twitter, people can be seen standing over a pot of boiling water filled with the mixture as they breathe in the steam. In some cases, other items have been added, from chopped onion to aromatic oils. Variations of the videos received thousands of views on social media. Inhaling steam can provide relief from the symptoms of the virus, such as soothing the mucus membranes of the nose or the back of the throat, experts say, but it will not kill the virus.

CLAIM: If a child gets the new coronavirus and needs to be hospitalized, they will be separated from their parents and the parents will not have the chance to see them again.

THE FACTS: Hospitals are limiting visitors, but hospital officials say they are allowing one parent to remain with a child. As the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. grew this week, posts were shared widely on Facebook and Twitter suggesting parents would be barred from staying with a child hospitalized with the virus. While hospitals are limiting visitors for known or suspected coronavirus patients, hospital officials say one parent can remain with children admitted for the virus. If visits must occur, the CDC says that facilities must evaluate the risk of the health of the visitor and provide instruction on hygiene upon entering the patient’s room. At the Children’s Hospital in Colorado, parents are allowed in the room but they must remain there to prevent the spread to the hospital.

CLAIM: Video shows a train moving National Guard vehicles into Chicago.

THE FACTS: Video of a train carrying military vehicles with the Chicago skyline in the background has been circulating on social media falsely identified as showing the National Guard arriving in the city amid the coronavirus pandemic. The National Guard in Illinois said the vehicles do not belong to them, nor is the video related to their response to COVID-19. According to the Department of Defense, the video shows military equipment being moved from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Bryan Spreitzer, a public affairs officer at the Illinois National Guard, said on Thursday there were 160 guard members providing COVID-19 assistance in Illinois.

They are distributing equipment, conducting planning, and providing medical support, mission analysis and testing.


CLAIM: Helicopters are being used to spray disinfectant over neighborhoods to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

THE FACTS: Officials have called the claim not only false, but dangerous to spread. It began circulating in the New York last weekend, but it has also been knocked down in other countries, including India, Mexico and Switzerland. New York used its official emergency notification system last week to address rumors that parts of Brooklyn were scheduled to be sprayed, and New York Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted Sunday to warn residents about the rumors.

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