During this wild time, we’re all in need of some good news. But what we’re in need of more than good news, is real good news.
So when I saw this post being shared around on my timeline, I wanted to fact check the claims in it before I shared it with my family and friends — we all have to be diligent that the information we are sharing right now is accurate because having the right information could make the difference as we fight against the coronavirus and try to stay as healthy and safe as possible.
1. China closing coronavirus hospital
The first claim is that China was able to close down its last emergency temporary coronavirus hospital as the number of new cases has diminished.
I did a keyword search of “China closed coronavirus hospitals” to confirm this, and found this article from The Independent on March 14 — about 6 days before this post was published — stating that according to a state-run news source in China, officials there have now closed all of the temporary hospitals in Wuhan, which is where the virus originated. And this article from the New York Post states that all 16 hospitals have now been closed — all 16 received 13,000 total patients.
This claim is legit. China has in fact closed down all of their temporary hospitals, including the ones in Wuhan. Here’s a video of doctors from that last hospital taking off their masks.
2. Coronavirus vaccine testing begins in Seattle
The post also claims that testing has begun in Seattle to develop a vaccine, “as healthy volunteer gets first shot”. There has been a lot of news going around about developing a possible vaccine for COVID-19, including a story we fact-checked here.
I searched “Seattle coronavirus vaccine testing”, and the first article that came up was from the BBC on March 17, confirming that the first trial in the U.S. had started. The article states: “Four patients received the jab at the Kaiser Permanente research facility in Seattle, Washington”. The test is not the actual virus itself, but instead a genetic code that may cause COVID-19, helping test if it is possible to “prime the body’s immune system to fight off the real infection”.
So yes — this is legit! Vaccine testing has begun in the US, but could still take up to 18 months for the vaccine to be publicly accessible.
3. Erasmus Medical Center has found an antibody?
The next claim states that researchers at Erasmus Medical Center have found an antibody that can fight against the coronavirus.
First — say it with me — let’s start with a keyword search: “erasmus medical center antibody.” The first response was from the Erasmus Magazine, dated March 14, describing and explaining the discovery. This discovery is not necessarily new, and has been worked on for many years to fight against the wide variety of viruses that fall under the coronavirus umbrella. One researcher quoted in the article said: “If you were to take this as a patient, it is expected — only an expectation right now — that the infection will be stopped. And so it can give the patient an opportunity to recover. But prevention is of course better than a cure: a real solution is therefore a vaccine, others are working on that.”
I wanted to double-check this information, so I followed up with a bit of lateral reading. Keeping the first article up, I went back to my original search and pulled up an article from NL Times, a Dutch newspaper, which confirmed the magazine’s claims, and also points out that if a medication were to be developed from this antibody, that could provide some at-home treatments. Again, such treatments would be months — or years — away from availability but would help combat some of the overwhelmed healthcare centers.
So yes — this is legit! An antibody has been discovered at the Dutch Erasmus Medical Center.
4. 103-year-old Chinese grandmother made a full recovery from COVID-19
The next claim is about a 103-year-old Chinese grandmother making a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for six days in a Wuhan hospital. If true, this would be especially significant because older populations have been more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19.
I did a keyword search, and found several articles about this centenarian grandmother, including this one from the Independent in the UK that confirms the good news. The woman’s doctors attribute her recovery to overall good health and a lack of underlying conditions.
This is legit!
5. Patients in New Delhi and Jaipur, India, have been treated and cured
Next, the post states “Patients in New Delhi and Jaipur, India, have been successfully treated and cured. They include a 69-and 85-year-old.” Off the bat, I was suspicious. As we mentioned in earlier fact checks — as of this writing, there is no vaccine or cure. Doctors try their best to manage symptoms as the virus runs its course.
When I did various keyword searches to find proof of this claim, the majority of results that came up were about the current lockdown and spreading of the virus. Even though I did find one story to corroborate the claim from the Economic Times in India it does not fully reflect the current situation in India.
The story quotes an Indian health secretary, who states: “Sixty-nine-year-old Italian man and an 85-year-old Jaipur native have been tested negative now twice. Both are now coronavirus-free.” But other articles — including this one from the same source — show the grave nature of the situation in India.
Overall, this needs context.
6. Apple reopens all 42 China stores
I did a keyword search for “China opens Apple stores”, and got multiple articles confirming this. One from the BBC on March 13 explains, “All 42 official Apple retail stores opened on Friday, although some stores had special business hours. It shut the stores in mid-February, as China put several cities on effective lockdown in a bid to contain the virus.” Going back to the original keyword search, multiple articles from Business Insider, The Verge, and CNBC all confirm this.
Stores remain closed outside of China, but in China they have opened — so this is legit!
7. Cleveland Clinic opens on-site rapid testing
According to the post, the Cleveland Clinic now offers on-site rapid testing that often gets results back within a day.
Go to the source
Going straight to the source, I pulled up the Cleveland Clinic website, specifically its page about the coronavirus. The testing tab on this page lays out the procedure for people to get tested and the options they have, including a drive-through lab. All of the tests require a doctor’s referral. Under the FAQ section, it states, “Cleveland Clinic’s on-site testing should yield results within one day.” But MetroHealth, also in Cleveland, is able to offer results within two hours, although supplies for this level of testing are still very limited, and on March 23, the FDA approved a new test that is able to yield results in as little as 45 minutes.
So thankfully, this is legit!
8. South Korea cases declining
The next claim talks about how the situation is getting better in South Korea.
I wanted to make sure I was getting reliable data, so I went to the World Health Organization for the most up-to-date information. This post was published on March 18, so when I started looking, I wanted to make sure I was looking at the right timeline.
Go to the source
I found one of the WHO situation reports that they release daily on COVID-19, which lays out confirmed cases, new cases, confirmed deaths and new deaths. As of March 17, South Korea had 8,320 confirmed cases, but only 84 new cases — which would appear that the infection rate was slowing down, and the isolation measures were working. However, to be certain, I looked at two previous situation reports to compare the number of new cases and total cases each day. On March 11, they reported 242 new cases — significantly more in one day than six days later. They also reported 7,755 cases total. And on March 4, 516 new cases were reported, with 5,328 cases total.
So yes — this is legit! The number of new cases each day week is currently decreasing.
9. Why Italy was hit so hard
The post claims Italy has been hard-hit by the effects of the coronavirus because its population is the oldest in Europe, according to experts.
Start with a keyword search
I looked up “why is Italy struggling so much with COVID-19” and found this article from WIRED, which discusses a few possible reasons. One is that about 23% of their population is over 65, compared to 17% in the same age bracket in the U.S. Another possibility is that they value traveling and close families, so they were spreading the virus amongst themselves before symptoms set in. They also did not fully understand how hard it would hit the entire country, so a call for a national social distancing effort was not in place early.
Check other sources
However, those were just theories. So I went back to my original search. An article from The Washington Post offered two other possible explanations. The first possibility proffered is that “At nearly any age, men appear to be more susceptible — something that is reflected in data from other countries, too, and that in Italy could be linked to the higher male smoking rate.”The second possibility, according to doctors cited by The Washington Post, is that compared to other countries, “The virus may have been spreading in Italy for longer,” and shows more deaths because “it kills slowly.”
This claim needs context. Scientists continue to learn more about the novel coronavirus every day, and currently, there is not enough information available to accurately know what caused the initial spike in cases in Italy.
10. Israel developed a new vaccine?
The last claim on this list claims that Israeli scientists will most likely announce the development of a vaccine, as well as a company in San Diego working with other labs around the country. The post does note that it won’t be available right away. I hadn’t heard anything about that when I was doing earlier research about possible vaccines, but it would be great if it was true!
I searched for “Israel developing COVID-19 vaccine,” and one of the first results was from Haaretz, a major Israeli English-language newspaper. The article says that scientists working at Israel’s Institute for Biological Research “have recently had a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the virus, including better diagnostic capability, production of antibodies for those who already have the virus and development of a vaccine.” The article does stress that “The development process requires a series of tests and experiments that may last many months before the vaccination is deemed effective or safe to use.” However, as of March 26, they had not made any announcements of the rumored development or given any further details.
Keyword search part two
I did another search to check the second part of the claim, that a San Diego biotech company is developing a vaccine with Duke University and National University of Singapore. “San Diego coronavirus vaccine” came up with lots of results, including this local CBS8 article and this KPBS video. The article states that “Though there are several companies working to develop a vaccine,” the CEO of the biotech company says the “technology they use is different.”
This is legit! Vaccines take a long time to develop, test and get approved, so we are still likely months or even years away from having one available to the public, and they are only preventative. But they are in development, which is great news.
Thea Barrett is a senior from Chapel Hill, North Carolina planning to study political science and American Sign Language at the University of Pittsburgh next year. She’s an intern for MediaWise and has worked with their Teen Fact Checking Network for about a year. Her twitter is @TheaBarr.
MediaWise is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.