September 24, 2020

PolitiFact and MediaWise are teaming up to debunk misinformation about the coronavirus crisis. To have Coronavirus Facts delivered to your inbox weekly, click here.

Before we check some COVID-19 facts, I want to talk about something really cool I’ve been working on that launches today: MediaWise for Seniors: Self-Directed Fact-Checking Course.

This is an online course teaching those 50 and older how to fact-check for themselves and identify misinformation, how social media and algorithms influence behavior and even how to talk to family members who are spreading misinformation. This has been a labor of love for me, so if you or a loved one are interested, please sign up — we’ve already got more than 1,500 people registered.

Now onto business: Did you happen to catch the breaking news, then retraction about coronavirus spreading through airborne particles, not just water droplets? On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that tiny airborne particles, not just the bigger water droplets from a sneeze or cough, could infect others. It cited growing “evidence.”

By Monday, that warning was gone, with a note that said it had been posted in error, and the CDC was in the process of updating its recommendations.

The move put the CDC in the middle of a debate over how the coronavirus infects people. Its guidelines could make the difference between restaurants, bars and other places where people gather, fully reopening sooner or much later.

And it raised more questions about politics at the public health agency and whether White House officials are dictating policy to health authorities.

So what does the science on airborne transmission actually say?

The emerging picture is a work-in-progress, but many of the pieces do point toward the potential for airborne transmission.

Click here for the full story.

Are COVID-19 rules second only to slavery on civil liberties intrusions, as Bill Barr claims?

No. Measures taken during public health emergencies — like stay-at-home orders — broadly pass legal muster, though some elements face legal challenges. Other documented civil liberties violations in American history include denying millions of Black people the right to vote, and terrorizing Black communities resulting in thousands of deaths. Read the fact-check»

Joe Biden overshoots saying Trump could’ve prevented every COVID-19 death

Experts said Joe Biden’s claim that a different pandemic response from President Donald Trump would have prevented every coronavirus death goes too far. Get the facts»

YouTube video wrongly claims Bill Gates said you “don’t have a choice” on COVID-19 vaccine

The video cuts out the question Gates was responding to and the first part of his answer to make it seem as if he supports mandatory coronavirus vaccinations. ​Read more»

Facebook post falsely claims COVID-19 victims have only died in hospitals

Most people who died of COVID-19 in the United States died in medical facilities, but nearly 10,000 as of Sept. 17 had died at home, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read the fact-check»

Instagram post recycles old footage to claim CDC director says healthy people not to wear masks

An Instagram post showed February footage of CDC Director Robert Refield in which he said that healthy people shouldn’t wear face masks, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its recommendations in April. In July, Redfield co-authored an editorial in a medical journal that advocated for “universal masking.” Get the facts»

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.

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Alex Mahadevan is senior multimedia reporter with the MediaWise project. He most recently worked as a data journalist at the personal finance startup The Penny…
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