As many Americans and others around the globe prepare for holiday travel and get-togethers, the omicron variant continues to be a concern. While the available data on transmission, vaccine effectiveness and severity of disease are still preliminary, here’s what we’ve learned so far.
COVID-19 has killed more than 805,000 people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet a viral video on social media suggests the disease is the same as a “common cold.” COVID-19 is in the same family of some cold viruses, but its potential for a severe outcome — including death — is much higher than for the common cold.
Scientists are still learning about the omicron variant’s ability to spread or cause severe illness and the effectiveness of the current COVID-19 vaccines in fighting it. But a Facebook post misleadingly claims to list seven “symptoms” of the new variant, then suggests they are caused by the vaccines. The list actually refers to complications of COVID-19. Two of the listed conditions are rare adverse events associated with the vaccines.
The vast majority of people who have died with COVID-19 had other medical conditions that put them at risk of severe disease, or other conditions caused by COVID-19. But internet posts misinterpret data about those conditions to falsely claim that Italy has reduced its count of COVID-19 deaths. It hasn’t.
Florida’s total COVID-19 case rate is higher than the national rate and 10th highest in the U.S. But social media posts and the state’s governor point to a recent decline in daily cases as evidence of Florida’s success in handling COVID-19, while ignoring the full impact of the pandemic’s toll on the state.
The seven-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. has increased by 322% in two months, straining the ability of medical staff in some states to care for patients. Despite the rising numbers, an Instagram post questioned whether COVID-19 is “truly a pandemic that was ‘overwhelming hospitals,'” if hospitals are firing nurses who refuse to be vaccinated.
The delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads more quickly than the original virus and has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization. It is now the dominant variant in the U.S. But a meme has been circulating on Facebook falsely claiming the delta variant is “fake news.”
In a May 16 interview, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director said the agency knew of 223 breakthrough fatalities among fully vaccinated individuals, but “not all … died of COVID.” That is not an admission that “many, many hospitals” previously “overcounted” COVID-19 deaths, as conservative websites have reported.
COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2020. But a meme featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis minimizes the toll the pandemic already has taken — particularly among the elderly. The meme also questions getting inoculated, despite the safety record of the vaccines and DeSantis’ public support for vaccines.