March 16, 2020 / 5:21 PM / 22 days ago

False claim: No one is sick with coronavirus, media is instilling "irrational fear" 

An image on social media makes the claim that "statistically", no one is sick with coronavirus. The image text questions whether anyone has been directly impacted by the outbreak and blames the media for instilling irrational fear and exerting its power to shut down “America” ( here ). The full image text is as follows:

“Does anyone know anyone who has the coronavirus? Not just heard about them but actually know them. Statistically none of us are sick. Your families aren’t sick, your neighbors aren’t sick, your co-workers aren’t sick. Yet concerts are cancelled, tournaments are cancelled and entire school districts are shut down. Out of total irrational fear. If you have not previously feared the power of the media you should be terrified of them now. They are exerting their power to shut down America. And it’s working.”

The World Health Organization (WHO, agency specialized in global public health within the United Nations) recently referred to the global outbreak of coronavirus as a pandemic here . A March 12, 2020 situation report puts the number of confirmed coronavirus cases globally at 125,048 ( here ). The same report tallies 987 confirmed cases and 29 deaths in the U.S. alone and states that the virus is now being locally transmitted, meaning that new cases are no longer immediately linked to travel or exposure abroad. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services) reported the same numbers on March 11, 2020 ( here ). By March 13, the CDC reported a total of 1,629 cases and 41 deaths ( here ).

County officials in California and Washington state have also issued press releases confirming recent deaths related to coronavirus and new cases, (Los Angeles County here , Seattle and King County here) .

U.S. patients’ experiences with coronavirus have been reported closely, as documented by the New York Times ( here ). One patient who contracted the virus on a Diamond Princess cruise ship that remained docked off the coast of Japan, commented on his state of mind when infected, "I got to thinking about, 'Is my life going to end here?"

At a Congressional hearing on coronavirus on March 12, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Health Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), testified on the U.S. response to the outbreak. "The system does not, is not really geared to what we need right now, to what you are asking for. That is a failing," he said, later in the hearing stating, "The idea of anybody getting [testing] easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we are not set up for that” ( here ).

In terms of testing limitations, despite changing regulations at a federal level, states are still struggling to make testing for the virus widely available, with local officials estimating it could take weeks more to reach peak testing capacity ( here ). So far, Arizona, Delaware, Florida and Tennessee have declared a state of emergency, with a number of other states including California and New York, banning large gatherings of more than 250 and 500 people, respectively, ( here ).

Reuters has reported on the widespread cancellations, closures and postponements throughout sports, entertainment, and education ( here ). These measures are medically recommended and fall in line with WHO recommendations limiting workplace risk and, upon a possible outbreak of coronavirus in particular communities, avoiding public transport and crowded places ( here ). The CDC also addresses potential mitigation activities that involve differing degrees of social distancing, in accordance to the level of community impact of the coronavirus, ( here ). Other countries, like the Philippines and Italy, have respectively implemented local and nationwide lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus, ( here ; here ).

After facing criticism from Democrats for not moving quickly enough to provide coronavirus testing for Americans, President Donald Trump took the dramatic step of imposing sweeping restrictions to prevent people from 26 European countries from traveling to the U.S. for a month, as Reuters reported ( here ). On March 13, Trump declared a national emergency over the fast-spreading coronavirus ( here ).


False: Despite delays in testing, coronavirus is a fast-spreading virus that has affected the U.S., prompting emergency closures in accordance with internationally recognized health protocols

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .

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