Aroundup 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: The nasal swab test commonly used for to diagnose COVID-19 involves obtaining a sample from a protective layer of cells known as the blood-brain barrier, which can result in inflammation of the brain.
THE FACTS: The swab used to diagnose COVID-19 goes so far back into the nose that it can be uncomfortable, even causing some people’s eyes to water. But it doesn’t touch the area known as the blood-brain barrier, where blood vessels and the brain exchange important nutrients, despite social media posts that claim it does. This week, Facebook posts viewed more than a million times shared a diagram of the nasopharyngeal swab test next to an anatomical picture of the brain, suggesting the swab disrupts the blood-brain barrier. “The blood-brain barrier is exactly where the swab has to be placed,” the image read, with a raised eyebrow emoji. “Coincidence??? I don’t think so.” However, Dr. Morgan Katz, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University, said these posts fundamentally misunderstand what’s happening when the test is conducted. The swab “would have to go through layers of muscle and fascia, as well as the base of the skull, which is a thick bone, in order to get anywhere near the blood-brain barrier, and I would say that it is not possible,” Katz told The Associated Press. Instead of the brain, the test collects a sample from the nasopharynx, an area between the back of the nose and the back of the throat where respiratory viruses often live. “That’s just a place where we expect to see the highest yield of respiratory viruses,” she said.
CLAIM: Wearing a face mask for extended periods of time can cause pleurisy, an inflammation of the lining around the lung.
THE FACTS: Multiple experts told The Associated Press there is no medical evidence that wearing a face mask could lead to this condition, despite Facebook posts claiming it could. “Be careful healthy people, shared from a friend,” read one Facebook post, which described a story of a healthy 19-year-old frontline grocery store worker who started feeling sick and was diagnosed with pleurisy. “They basically tell her.. It’s because she’s been wearing a mask for over 8 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Breathing in her own bacteria. Carbon dioxide.. Caused an infection.” Another Facebook post featured a diagram of a lung with an inflamed lining. “Result of wearing mask for 8 hours a day,” the caption read. “Why are they not reporting the number of people being hospitalized for this?? YOU NEED FRESH AIR.” But doctors who study the respiratory system say a face mask doesn’t pose this risk. “There is absolutely no truth in that claim,” said Humberto Choi, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic, in an email. “There are thousands of health care workers wearing face masks everyday including masks that are much tighter than simple surgical masks. Nobody is getting pleurisy because of that.” “I don’t see a medically plausible mechanism for mask wearing to cause pleurisy,” said Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer at the American Lung Association. Claims that mask-wearing leads to harmful conditions, including bacterial and fungal infections, pneumonia, hypercapnia and other ailments are also false, according to AP reporting.
CLAIM: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent out COVID-19 tests “seeded” with the virus.
THE FACTS: Social media users shared an illustration of a COVID-19 nasal swab test where a six inch long swab is placed into the cavity between the nose and mouth with false information that the CDC sent out tests that contained the live virus. The post asserts that COVID-19 tests are tainted and could expose people to the virus. According to one Instagram post that shared the illustration with false information: “COVID-19 test has the virus … the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent states tainted lab tests in early February that were themselves seeded with the virus, federal officials have confirmed.” In February, the CDC distributed a batch of faulty COVID-19 test kits to laboratories, but the kit did not contain the live virus. The contaminated tests were not sent out to patients. The CDC produced two types of test kits in January. There was no evidence that the first batch had any issues. The second type of test kit, which was developed to be manufactured by the CDC, was contaminated. The Department of Health &Human Services published an investigation of the failed rollout on June 19. The report states: “After receiving these tests from CDC in early February, public health laboratories attempted to validate the test kits before using them on real specimens. They could not validate the test — a negative control gave a positive result —and thus, the test kits were not used and no patient received an inaccurate test result.”
CLAIM: “Teachers are the number one occupation of the antifa terrorist organization according to the FBI.”
THE FACTS: False. There is no evidence that teachers make up an outsized portion of antifa, a shorthand term for “anti-fascists.” The FBI told The Associated Press it “has not made any such statements about the occupations of people who are attracted to particular ideologies.” This false claim has gone viral online recently, both as part of longer blog posts promoting conspiracy theories around COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd, and independently on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook alone, posts connecting teachers with antifa have been viewed more than a million times in the past week. But the posts don’t reflect the way the FBI actually investigates criminal activity or people who identify as antifa, which has become an umbrella term for left-leaning militant groups that oppose neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations. While FBI director Christopher Wray recently told Fox News the agency is investigating various “violent anarchist extremists, some of whom self-identify or otherwise link to the antifa movement,” the agency does not initiate investigations solely based on an individual’s identity. Though President Donald Trump has tweeted that the United States will designate antifa as a terrorist organization, it does not qualify for inclusion on the State Department’s foreign terror organizations list because antifa is a domestic movement.
CLAIM: The dress Melania Trump wore during Fourth of July celebrations featured drawings by various victims of child sex trafficking.
THE FACTS: The sketches on the dress were made by art students in a class, not by victims of sex trafficking. On July 3, during a visit to Mount Rushmore to commemorate the Fourth of July, First Lady Melania Trump wore a white dress with black lines, black shoes and a black belt. Social media users criticized both the appearance and the price of the garment, which cost $3,840. Others claimed the dress featured drawings from sex trafficking victims. “The media mocked First Lady Melania’s dress,” read one Facebook post with more than 8 million views. “They said it looked like childish scribbles. Little did they know, they were the drawings of several young victims of sex trafficking who tried to explain their pain through pictures.” But posts like this are not correct — the dress actually shows sketches of “dancing girls” made by design students from the British art school Central Saint Martins. The students worked with Julie Verhoeven, a fashion illustrator, during a class at the Alexander McQueen flagship store in London.
CLAIM: Kansas City Chiefs CEO and owner Clark Hunt told NFL players, coaches and staff that they are all “simply paid performers on a stage” and he will “immediately fire” anyone who does not stand, with their hand over their heart, during the playing of the national anthem.
THE FACTS: Hunt did not hold such a meeting, although he has publicly expressed support for Chiefs players standing during the national anthem. Facebook users for years have circulated a false statement that claims to reveal the Kansas City Chiefs owner called a dramatic meeting to tell NFL players they need to stand during the anthem — or face immediate dismissal from the team. The hoax is gaining traction, again, on Facebook before the football season resumes and after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized last month for the way the league has handled peaceful protests over racial injustice. They included players taking a knee in 2016 during the national anthem — an effort led by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Goodell made the comments this year, the day after Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes urged the league to condemn racism. The statement first began circulating on Facebook in 2016, as debate over football players’ decision to kneel during the anthem raged.