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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center
SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project

Sequencing Used to Identify Delta, Other Coronavirus Variants

Sequencing Used to Identify Delta, Other Coronavirus Variants

Researchers use genomic sequencing — not the clinical tests used to diagnose patients with COVID-19 — to identify and track specific variants of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, including the highly contagious delta variant. But viral posts try to deny the existence of the variant by misleadingly claiming there is “no ‘Delta Variant’ test.”

Posts Baselessly Link COVID-19 Tests to Vaccine Conspiracy Theory

Posts Baselessly Link COVID-19 Tests to Vaccine Conspiracy Theory

The COVID-19 vaccines currently in use must be administered via injection. But Instagram posts baselessly suggest that Bill Gates and George Soros will use COVID-19 tests to secretly vaccinate people who haven’t yet received the shots. There is no evidence for that conspiracy theory, and scientists say trying to administer a vaccine with a swab would likely not be effective.

Viral Posts Misrepresent CDC Announcement on COVID-19 PCR Test

Viral Posts Misrepresent CDC Announcement on COVID-19 PCR Test

Scientists consider polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests a highly reliable tool for diagnosing COVID-19. But social media posts are misrepresenting a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement regarding the eventual discontinuation of its own test, falsely claiming the government has conceded that PCR tests aren’t reliable.

Viral Video Misleadingly Questions Safety of Nasal Swabs

Viral Video Misleadingly Questions Safety of Nasal Swabs

A chemical widely used to sterilize medical devices is also used for nasal swabs in COVID-19 testing. But a viral video misleadingly suggests that the swabs are dangerous — saying that the chemical causes cancer and can alter DNA. Experts say the chemical’s use in this context does not pose a threat to human health.

Story Twists Facts on Diagnosing Breakthrough COVID-19 Cases

Story Twists Facts on Diagnosing Breakthrough COVID-19 Cases

A viral headline shared on social media falsely asserts that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed testing thresholds to “virtually eliminate” COVID-19 cases among vaccinated individuals. That’s wrong. The threshold in question simply applies to whether or not there is enough virus present in a sample for further analysis.

What tests are available for COVID-19?

Tests that detect current infections with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are known as viral tests. There are two types: a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test, or NAAT, and an antigen test. 
Many of the NAATs use a molecular biology technique known as the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, to detect even a very tiny amount of the virus in a specimen.
The PCR test takes advantage of some natural features of biology to essentially scan through all of the RNA present in a sample — such as a nasal swab — and search for the presence of coronavirus RNA. 

Biden Hasn’t Reduced COVID-19 Testing at the Border

Biden Hasn’t Reduced COVID-19 Testing at the Border

The Biden administration has made no changes to COVID-19 testing policies for either U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or Customs and Border Patrol. But a claim circulating online falsely suggests that the administration has stopped testing detained immigrants before they are released.

Flu Shot Doesn’t Cause False Positive Results for COVID-19

Flu Shot Doesn’t Cause False Positive Results for COVID-19

A viral claim on Facebook erroneously tells users that “you will test positive” for COVID-19 if “you’ve gotten flu shots during the past ten years.” Vaccine and infectious disease experts told us that’s false, and the Food and Drug Administration says this hasn’t been observed in any authorized tests.

Q&A on COVID-19 Antibody Tests

Q&A on COVID-19 Antibody Tests

We’ll run through how the tests work and why it’s so hard to interpret what the results might mean.