Here’s a roundup of the most viral, but untrue visuals and stories of the week. Despite being shared on social media, none of these stories are true. They were checked by the Associated Press. These are the facts:
Unfounded claim that $2.5 billion was allocated to an immigrant welcoming center’
CLAIM: US tax dollars have been allocated to a welcoming centre for illegal immigrants.
THE FACTS: Conservative bloggers Diamond and Silk falsely claimed American tax dollars were being used to fund a multibillion-dollar welcoming center for illegal immigrants. The pair shared their thoughts on Twitter and Facebook. “The 2.5 billion allocated to a ‘Welcoming Center For Illegal Aliens’ should only be used for legal Americans. It is American tax dollars! The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides $3.4 billion to the General Services Administration for “construction and acquisition, and repair and alterations of land ports of entry” with $2.5 billion going towards items in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s five-year plan. CBP confirmed that these projects did not include a “welcoming centre.” CBP sent an AP statement noting that “there is no truth” to the rumor. Instead, the bill funds a variety of infrastructure improvements at land ports. This includes repairs, expansion, and modernization of some border facilities that have not been updated for decades. Last week, a bipartisan group representing Arizona lawmakers urged Congress to approve funding for land ports of entry projects. In a letter, they argued that fixing Arizona’s aging infrastructure would allow the U.S. to trade with Mexico, stop the illegal drug transport and facilitate border traffic. Diamond and Silk denied to the AP that the bipartisan infrastructure bill funded a welcoming centre, but they did not immediately respond when asked.
This report was contributed by Ali Swenson, an Associated Press writer in New York. Additional reporting was done by Jude Joffe-Block, an Associated Press writer in Phoenix.
Posts misleading about recalled COVID-19 tests
CLAIM: The COVID-19 PCR test was recalled because it had too many false positives. It was the only COVID-19 test that was available last spring. These false results exaggerated and deceived Americans into losing their jobs and livelihoods.
FACTS: The COVID-19 test that was recently recalled and shared on Instagram and TikTok, is a rapid blood test and not a PCR. It wasn’t the only one in use last spring. It was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to be commercially distributed. This video suggests that Innova Medical Group’s recall its test is proof of the coronavirus pandemic. The video shows a narrator in front of a screenshot of an FDA notice about the June recall of the test. The narrator claims that the test is a PCR and has caused the pandemic. She also says that it has led to people losing their livelihoods and businesses. However, the FDA notice clarifies that the test is not a PCR. PCR tests detect the genetic material of the virus and are considered the most sensitive type of test. Antigen tests, which are more sensitive, look for antigens (proteins) on the virus’ surface. Innova Medical Group’s recalled antigen test also was never authorized by the FDA, while many other antigen tests and PCR tests have been. Innova Medical Group recalls the test because the FDA discovered it could produce false results. The FDA also stated that the test was improperly distributed without its approval. FDA spokesperson Jim McKinney told the AP that a different test, the Quidel Sofia 2 SARS Antigen FIA, was the first antigen COVID-19 test it authorized for emergency use, on May 9, 2020. The agency had granted emergency authorization for PCR tests to detect this virus several months prior. According to Johns Hopkins University, the COVID-19 pandemic claimed over 600,000.
Florida vaccine mandates did not cause flight delays for airlines in Florida.
CLAIM: Flights in the United States are being backed up as crew and pilots abandon boarded aircraft and refuse to receive the required vaccine.
FACTS: A photo shared by social media users of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport departure and arrival board. It falsely claims that it shows pilots walking off flights to protest having to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Posts claim that crew and pilots refuse to “take the shot.” This false claim circulated recently, after operational and weather problems caused delays and cancellations. The board listed cancellations for Spirit Airlines (American Airlines) and JetBlue Airways. The AP contacted all three airlines and they confirmed that cancellations and delays were caused by weather. According to the AP, more than 227 Spirit flights were cancelled and 58 flights were delayed in August 2. In a statement, the Air Line Pilots Association stated that Spirit was also having operational problems that didn’t include a pilot strike. The association stated in a statement that any such report or rumor is false. Spirit’s pilots work diligently with other employee groups in order to safely and professionally resume full operations as soon possible,” Erik Hofmeyer (communications director at Spirit) told the AP via email that the post was false. American Airlines confirmed last week that delays were caused by weather. Officials said that the airline will offer an incentive to employees who receive the COVID-19 vaccination. This includes an additional day off in 2022, and $50 from a recognition programme. United Airlines and Frontier Airlines will require that their U.S. employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 by October. JetBlue officials confirmed that there is no link between pilot vaccination and cancellations or delays. They cited weather conditions in the Northeast as well as the rapid ramp-up in travel. JetBlue’s corporate communications manager Derek Dombrowski said in an email that they are still evaluating a requirement for vaccinations for all JetBlue crew members. “In the meantime, we highly recommend our crewmembers receive a shot to protect ourselves and those around us.”
This report was contributed by Beatrice Dupuy, an Associated Press journalist from New York.
Because of the ‘freedom fighters’, Alberta didn’t lift COVID-19 restrictions
CLAIM: After health officials failed to provide any evidence that the virus existed, Alberta, Canada lifted COVID-19 restrictions.
FACTS: Alberta’s COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed because it met predetermined vaccination goals and not because of a court hearing. King is falsely being credited with the driving force of the change due to misrepresentations in a Canadian court case involving Patrick King. According to court records, King was penalized in December for violating COVID-19. This included protesting pandemic restrictions and gathering in large groups. King represented himself in court and sought to challenge Alberta’s public-health rules. He requested that Dr. Deena Hinshaw (province’s chief medical officer of Health) present papers discussing the isolation of SARS/CoV-2 from “directly from an extract taken from a patient with a diseased condition.” The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta overturned the subpoena. The court ruled that King’s fine was not related to the health agency. King and other social media users misrepresented the court’s language, falsely implying that it had not found any evidence of COVID-19. King, a conservative podcaster, falsely claimed that the court used a language that implied that there was no evidence that COVID-19 exists. Chinese authorities first isolated the virus on Jan. 7, 2020 and Canadian scientists did so in March of 2020. In an email, Brett Boyden, a spokesperson of the chief medical officer for health, stated that the Court’s decision on the subpoena was a technical matter. “It was argued Dr. Hinshaw didn’t have any material evidence that would be relevant for the matters to be decided in trial. The Court quashed the subpoena. Social media users called King a “freedom fighter” and “forced” the government to admit that COVID-19 does not exist. They falsely claimed that Alberta had lifted all restrictions due to King’s case. According to the health agency, Alberta has recently relaxed COVID-19 restrictions. However, the decision was not related to King. After at least 70% of those over 12 years old had received at least one dose, the province moved into the final phase of the Open for Summer Plan. Boyden stated that it was false to suggest there is a relationship between the decision regarding the subpoena, and the lifting public health measures. “Mr. King was eventually found guilty and sentenced to pay a penalty.” King didn’t respond to a request to comment.
This report was contributed by Arijeta Lajka, New York Associated Press writer.
Photo of Sen. Rand Paul receiving a hepatitis A booster shot and not a COVID-19 vaccination
CLAIM: This photo shows Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky getting the COVID-19 vaccination.
FACTS: This photo was taken February 2015, and shows the Republican senator receiving an hepatitis A booster shot. Paul has not been given the COVID-19 vaccine. The photo, which was falsely identified, circulated widely on Twitter along with a Sunday video Paul posted criticizing enforced vaccinations, mask mandates, and lockdown measures. Paul stated in the video, “We either had COVID or had the vaccine” “We will make our own health choices.” The photo of Paul receiving the hepatitis A booster was taken at the Capitol physician’s office. The photo was taken by Jeremy W. Peters for The New York Times on February 3, 2015. “Ironic”: Today, I get my booster vaccine. “Wonder how liberal media will misreport it?” Paul tweeted the moment, sharing a picture of himself getting the shot. In May, the AP reported that Paul said he didn’t plan on getting the COVID-19 vaccine, claiming he had “natural immunity.” He said he might change his stance depending on whether those who had COVID-19 get reinfected at a greater rate than the vaccinated. Paul was positive for the virus on March 2020. Paul wrote to the AP that he decided not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because of an Israeli study showing natural immunity was quite protective against reinfection. Paul stated, “But I keep an eye on the reinfection data and will keep my mind open.” Public health officials are urging people to get vaccinated even if they’ve already been infected with the virus. A recent CDC study found people who recovered from COVID-19 and ignored the advice were more than twice as likely to get reinfected compared to survivors who got shots.