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VERIFY: Fact-checking this week's viral coronavirus claims

The VERIFY team is compiling its fact-checks weekly on the new virus known as COVID-19, here's February 24.

Fears regarding the outbreak of the coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, have led to rumors circulating online, a lot of them.

So many in fact that VERIFY is compiling each week’s coronavirus fact-checks every Friday. That way you can easily find every fact-check the team has made about the coronavirus on a weekly basis.

The VERIFY team is also compiling some older claims that have been fact-checked previously for this first week. Future weeks will only include fact-checks conducted during that week.

Viral graph video is accurate but doesn’t show the whole picture

A video with graphics displaying the infectiousness of various infamous virus outbreaks showed that the coronavirus was far more infectious 42 days after it was first tracked than any of the other virus outbreaks at that time. However, that viral video was actually a part of a larger video showing, at this point in time, your risk of dying from COVID-19 is low. As the video continues, it shows that swine flu goes on to infect some 60 million people and the Spanish flu from 1918 infected 500 million. Currently, COVID-19 is nowhere near those numbers.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: Viral 'coronavirus vs SARS/Ebola/swine flu' graph is accurate, but leaves out context

The CDC doesn’t say you should shave your beard to protect against the coronavirus

An infographic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said tight-fitting respirator masks will not seal with certain kinds of facial hair. While news outlets shared it in relation to COVID-19, it actually was produced in 2017 regarding people who wanted to participate in No Shave November but required a respirator mask for work. The CDC doesn’t even recommend most healthy people wear masks to protect themselves from the virus at this moment.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: CDC did not recommend shaving beards to protect against coronavirus

You will not get your money back with a standard insurance plan if you cancel a flight for fear of coronavirus

Several travel insurance companies confirmed that fear of the coronavirus is not covered in standard travel insurance plans. The only way you could get your money back is if you got a “cancel for any reason” plan, which is pricier than the coverage. Even then, cancelling for any reason only reimburses you between 60 and 75 percent of your money.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: Can I cancel a flight because I'm scared of coronavirus, and get my money back?

COVID-19 wasn’t predicted in a 1981 book

A book written in 1981 by Dean Koontz referenced a man-made virus called “Wuhan-400” because it was developed in Wuhan, China. However, it was originally called “Gorki-400” because of the Russian city it was developed in, and the change happened sometime after the book was published following the fall of the Soviet Union. COVID-19 has few similarities with the virus in the book outside of the location it started in.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: Dean Koontz did not predict the coronavirus outbreak in his 1981 book

Cleaning planes is up to the airlines

While the World Health Organization recommends that airlines always clean airplanes as if an infected person was on board, there aren’t any uniform rules in the United States mandating it. However, all three of the airlines VERIFY spoke with -- American, United and Delta -- do some level of cleaning after every flight.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: Are airplanes cleaned after international flights to protect against coronavirus?

You cannot get COVID-19 from eating Chinese food

There is no evidence that the latest coronavirus is transmitting from food, according to the Food and Drug Administration, CDC and experts. Instead, the virus spreads the respiratory route through droplets from coughs and sneezes. The spread of such rumors is needlessly harmful to other Americans. The CDC said Chinese and Asian Americans are "facing stigma in their communities” due to the virus, “including people avoiding their businesses or restaurants."

ARTICLE: VERIFY: No, you can't get coronavirus by eating Chinese food

Recent patents do not refer to the COVID-19 strain of coronavirus

While there are real patents submitted by multiple governments and research groups to study vaccines and detection methods of past coronavirus strains, they weren’t referring to the current strain of coronavirus. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illnesses such as the common cold, SARS and MERS. The patents that exist are for vaccine development of strains that cause those other illnesses. The COVID-19 strain was recently discovered and not in pre-existing patents.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: 'Coronavirus patents' are from older viruses, not current strain

The coronavirus is unlikely to spread on packages

The CDC estimated that the lifespan of the COVID-19 virus outside of the human body is “in the range of hours.” That means it wouldn’t survive long enough to infect you from a package shipped from China or just about anywhere else. If you do touch a physical surface that happens to have the virus on it, you can get infected by then touching your nose, mouth or eyes. So keep your hands away from your face and wash your hands often to keep yourself safe.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: Can the Wuhan coronavirus spread from surfaces?

Videos of containment measures in China turned into fear-mongering

Early in the days of the virus outbreak, social media users shared videos and photos that they claimed to show the terrifying situation happening in China. Not every video and photo could be specifically identified for authenticity, but many of them are plausible and lineup with images and videos that can be seen on Chinese state media. One user compared a video of passengers getting temperatures checked to an “apocalyptic horror movie.” That video simply showed an early method Chinese authorities were using to check airline passengers for illness. There are no longer outgoing flights from Wuhan.

ARTICLE: VERIFY: Fact-checking viral coronavirus videos and claims

Credit: AP

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