Fake News Health

My Failed Effort to Correct News about the CDC’s Advice to Schools

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Something very strange happened yesterday. Some site or sites on Facebook reposted a post I wrote, saying that the CDC recommended an eight-week recess for schools. This was not my opinion. It was based on an article in the New York Times.

My original post began:

Erica Green of the New York Times writes today that the federal government has finally offered directions for schools faced with the global pandemic:

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised schools on Friday that closings for at least eight weeks might be the most effective way to contain the coronavirus. The Education Department released school districts from a slew of testing and accountability measures required by federal law.

The story in the Times still opens with this statement.

Our reader Laura Chapman did her own fact-checking and wrote a comment saying that the Times story did not fully represent what the CDC recommended. Here is the CDC guidance for schools.

As soon as I saw Laura’s comment, I read the CDC guidance and promptly posted the full CDC guidance.

I have since inserted the CDC guidance into the original post, in hopes of setting the record straight.

However, my original post was broadly distributed, and I don’t know by whom.

On a typical day, I get about 4,000-10,000 page views. That one post has received more than 700,000 views, and the number keeps growing. The correction has been viewed about 6,000 times.

I tried to correct the initial strong statement, but the original story far outran the correction with the text of the CDC guidance.

I was reminded of this quote: “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on.”

When I googled, I learned that this quote has often been attributed to Mark Twain, but this too is fake.

And as some readers noted, attributions on the Internet are not reliable anyway.

Whom can you trust in these times? At least for now, actual scientists, like the CDC.

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