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Health Feedback
08/10/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

Scientists studying the virus that causes COVID-19 have observed that a particular mutation known as D614G, which affects the spike protein of the virus, is present in the predominant virus strains in places like Europe, the United States, and Australia. This has led to many questions regarding its potential influence on the virus’ behavior.

A New York Post article which went viral on Facebook claimed that the D614G mutation could lead the virus to bypass hand-washing and mask-wearing, which have been recommended as effective preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19. The claim was purportedly based on the findings of a preprint study and suggested that the mutation would render these measures ineffective. Scientists who reviewed the article found the claim to be unsupported and misleading. They pointed out that the researchers who authored the preprint study did not investigate the effect of the mutation on the protectiveness of hand-washing and mask-wearing. Therefore, the claim is unsubstantiated by scientific evidence.

Since publishing this post, the New York Post has corrected its article to remove the unsupported claim from its headline and added more context to clarify that there is uncertainty over whether the D614G mutation has any effect on the characteristics of the virus and the implications for its spread.

Dr. Emma Hodcroft:
“The preprint that the article focuses on actually says nothing about the most egregious claim made in the article: that the virus is evolving to get around hand-washing, masks, etc. This comes from a quote from someone who’s not an author on the preprint, giving an opinion about the preprint…on a topic not covered by the preprint.”

https://healthfeedback.org/evaluation/new-york-post-article-makes-speculative-unsupported-claim-that-mutation-could-enable-the-virus-causing-covid-19-to-evade-handwashing-and-mask-wearing/

A new John Stossel video claims we inappropriately rated their West Coast fires video on Facebook. Despite what the vide...
08/10/2020
Climate Feedback

A new John Stossel video claims we inappropriately rated their West Coast fires video on Facebook. Despite what the video implies, the scientists who helped us evaluate the claim that climate change has little effect on wildfire trends (compared to forest management) agree that our rating was appropriate. To set the record straight, here is how the process works: https://climatefeedback.org/responding-to-stossel-tv-video-on-our-rating-process/

A new John Stossel video claims we inappropriately rated their West Coast fires video on Facebook. Despite what the video implies, the scientists who helped us evaluate the claim that climate change has little effect on wildfire trends (compared to forest management) agree that our rating was appropriate.
To set the record straight, here is how the process works:
https://climatefeedback.org/responding-to-stossel-tv-video-on-our-rating-process/

Climate Feedback
08/10/2020
Climate Feedback

Climate Feedback

The severity of wildfires in the western US is driven by multiple factors, including a century of fire suppression practices, climate change, and an increase in the number of people living close to wildlands. Articles published by The Daily Caller and other media outlets attribute the behavior of current wildfires almost exclusively to land management practices. Scientists who reviewed The Daily Caller article found that the article oversimplifies the complex drivers of wildfires in the western US and misleads readers by stating that land management practices enacted during the Clinton administration are the almost exclusive cause of severe wildfires today.
Since publishing this post, The Daily Caller corrected their article to clarify that climate change is an important driver of wildfire behavior in the western US in addition to land management practices.

Prof. Zeke Hausfather:
The causes of the increase in burned area in the western US in recent decades – and the record-setting fires of 2020 – are complex, driven by a mix of a changing climate, a 100-year legacy of overzealous fire suppression in forests adapted for frequent low-level fires, more people living in highly flammable wildland urban interface areas, and at times a counterproductive role of some environmental regulations. However, this article glosses over much of this complexity, presenting a simple but misleading narrative that land management rules enacted by the Clinton administration set the stage for the destructive fires we are experiencing today.

https://climatefeedback.org/evaluation/article-by-the-daily-caller-oversimplifies-drivers-of-wildfires-and-downplays-role-of-climate-change-chris-white/

Health Feedback
25/09/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

Scientific evidence supports wearing face masks as an important public health measure for reducing virus transmission for COVID-19. A report by The Telegraph that face masks “could be giving people Covid-19 immunity”, based on a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), describes a hypothesis regarding other potential benefits of masks. Scientists who reviewed the report found it to be accurate in some respects, but also highlighted some potentially misleading statements.

The report describes the hypothesis that face masks produce milder infections while building population immunity by reducing the infectious dose, or the amount of virus that a susceptible person is exposed to, which is related to viral load. Viral load is often used as a measure of disease severity. This is similar to the process of variolation, which was used to induce immunity to smallpox before the smallpox vaccine was developed.

Scientists who reviewed the Telegraph report explained that the infectious dose is only one determinant of viral load and that other factors can also influence disease severity. They also cautioned that the hypothesis that masks reduce disease severity and build immunity is currently not supported by evidence. Therefore, people should not view wearing masks as a viable alternative to vaccination or assume that wearing a face mask will grant them “immunity” to COVID-19.

Prof. Dale Fisher:
“Masks don't give immunity; rather, the argument is that infections are milder or asymptomatic and allow immunity without severe disease. The article is essentially true to the NEJM commentary, however a reader could become confused and think that the article suggests masks give you COVID-19 immunity.”

https://healthfeedback.org/evaluation/telegraph-article-describing-the-hypothesis-that-face-masks-can-variolate-a-population-receives-mixed-reviews-on-its-scientific-accuracy/

Health Feedback
08/09/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

Many memes posted on social media question the effectiveness of face masks by asking why measures like lockdowns and physical distancing would still be necessary “if masks work.”

These memes oversimplify the concepts of risk and protection by portraying them as binary concepts that either exist or do not exist. The reality is that risk and protection exist on a continuum. Scientific evidence has demonstrated that face masks reduce the transmission of viral respiratory infections like COVID-19 to some degree. Practicing physical distancing and proper hand hygiene, along with wearing masks further enhances the effectiveness of face masks.

This is analogous to measures used to improve traffic safety, like seatbelts, which significantly reduce the risk of injury or death from a traffic accident. But seatbelts alone do not remove the risk entirely, hence they do not render additional safety features such as airbags and brakes redundant. In spite of this, one would not argue that seatbelts are useless simply because they do not prevent all risks.

https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/masks-offer-only-partial-protection-from-the-virus-that-causes-covid-19-but-their-effectiveness-can-be-enhanced-with-other-measures-like-physical-distancing/

Health Feedback
04/09/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

Claims that the PCR test for the novel coronavirus detects human DNA—and that many test results would therefore be false positive—are based on a flawed understanding of how the test works.

The PCR test is the method of choice for detecting SARS-CoV-2. It is able to detect small amounts of the virus’ genetic material by recognizing a genetic sequence unique to the virus and making many copies of it, in a process called amplification. The recognition of the unique sequence is achieved by using a pair of primers, which are short sequences of single-stranded nucleic acids. Based on the principle of complementary base pairing, the primers can recognize specific regions of the genome flanking the unique sequence.

Although one of the primers used in one type of PCR test for SARS-CoV-2 matches a sequence on human chromosome 8, its partner does not recognize sequences in human DNA. In such a case, amplification would not take place and the test would produce a negative result. Therefore, the test would always produce a negative result if only human DNA was present. Hence the claim that the RT-PCR test would produce a false-positive result due to the presence of human DNA—and the implication that the number of positive SARS-CoV-2 test results is artificially inflated for this reason—is incorrect and misleading.

https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/human-dna-alone-does-not-produce-a-positive-result-on-the-rt-pcr-test-for-sars-cov-2/

International Fact-Checking Network
21/08/2020

International Fact-Checking Network

CONGRATULATIONS! 22 projects from 12 countries will split $1 million provided through a partnership between The International Fact-Checking Network and YouTube via Google News Initiative. Read more about how each group plans to advance the field of #factchecking 👉 https://poy.nu/31h05WX

#factcheck #factchecker #facts #ifcn

Health Feedback
20/08/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

Antibody studies have been making news headlines, but they’re not the only players in our body’s defenses against #COVID19. New findings suggest that a prior history of infection with other coronaviruses may prime the immune system to recognize SARS-CoV-2 through persistent, cross-reactive memory T cells.
Scientists who reviewed this National Geographic article found that it accurately reports the new findings.

Dr. Angeline Rouers:
“More and more studies indicate that T cell immunity has a huge role in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 and the ongoing vaccine development has to keep this in mind. However, it does not mean that antibodies have no role at all … It is possible that vaccination turns out to be very successful in eliciting very good antibodies, but only the future and more investigations can say.”

Learn more: https://healthfeedback.org/evaluation/potential-role-for-t-cells-in-covid-19-immunity-accurately-reported-in-national-geographic-article/

Climate Feedback
07/07/2020
Climate Feedback

Climate Feedback

An article by Michael Shellenberger mixes accurate and inaccurate claims in support of a misleading and overly simplistic argumentation about climate change. The article was published in various media outlets, including Forbes, Zero Hedge, Breitbart, PJ Media, The Daily Wire, The Australian, and Quillette and has received a wide audience on social media. Forbes unpublished the flawed article on the same day it was published “because it violated our editorial guidelines around self-promotion”, Forbes told.

Scientists who analysed the article found that several of the claims, such as “climate change is not making natural disasters worse” and “humans are not causing a ‘sixth mass extinction’” contrast with current scientific evidence.

Prof. Stefan Doerr
The article argues that society has been misled about causes and consequences of climate change, which has led to “climate alarmism.” The author advocates that we should be less concerned about climate change than many environmentalists argue. Whilst the latter is relative depending on how concerned an individual is and which specific (and perhaps extreme) view this aligns with, some of the supporting statements in the article related to wildfire are (i) inaccurate for key facts supporting argumentation, or (ii) omit important information that leads to flaws in the conclusions.

https://climatefeedback.org/evaluation/article-by-michael-shellenberger-mixes-accurate-and-inaccurate-claims-in-support-of-a-misleading-and-overly-simplistic-argumentation-about-climate-change/

Health Feedback
23/06/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

Blood type isn’t just important in blood transfusions - it’s also known to influence the risk of developing certain diseases, such as malaria. A claim that blood type O is protective against COVID-19, reported in several outlets including Jerusalem Post, has gone viral following findings from a few studies suggesting an association between blood type O and a lower risk of developing #COVID19.

In fact, scientists have warned that not enough evidence exists to establish a causal association between blood type and COVID-19 risk. Furthermore, they have also highlighted that the risk of COVID-19 infection and disease severity depends on many factors besides blood type, such as the presence of pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes. Any protection arising from type O blood might be quite small compared to other factors. Therefore, regardless of their blood type, people should continue to take precautions to avoid SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Prof. Laura Cooling in an 11 Jun. Chemical and Engineering News article:
“[COVID-19 risk depends on] what your blood type is, relative to the other person who exposed you, relative to all the other genetic and acquired health conditions you have.”

https://healthfeedback.org/claimreview/people-should-continue-to-take-precautions-against-covid-19-regardless-of-their-blood-type/

Climate Feedback
18/06/2020
Climate Feedback

Climate Feedback

An article in The Guardian misleadingly claims that the latest generation of climate models are more sensitive to carbon emissions than scientists previously thought. Scientists that reviewed this article state that the best estimate of climate sensitivity, or the amount that global temperature rises in response to increased CO2, remains within the range presented in the IPCC 5th Assessment Report. By only focusing on one climate model that showed high climate sensitivity, the article overlooks limitations of the model as well as other scientific research in this field.

Prof. Reto Knutti:
“The Guardian article is cherry-picking a single technical paper and over-interpreting it as being relevant for the prediction of long term warming, without sufficient context on the vast amount of literature that does not support such a conclusion.”

https://climatefeedback.org/evaluation/article-in-the-guardian-misleads-readers-about-sensitivity-of-climate-models-by-narrowly-focusing-on-single-study-jonathan-watts/

Climate Feedback
12/06/2020
Climate Feedback

Climate Feedback

Initiatives to plant trees to tackle climate change can be found across the world, yet the international conversation on tree plantings as a solution to reducing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere and mitigating the rise in global surface temperature is mixed, with judgments ranging from helpful to harmful.

We examined the benefits and limitations of tree planting as a climate solution based on comments from 10 scientists in the field and current evidence. Scientists emphasized that even though planting trees can assist in climate mitigation if done carefully, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation are the most important climate solutions. The complex benefits and limitations of tree plantings depend on geographic region, local ecology, social context, planting approach, and a variety of other factors.

Prof. Karen Holl:
“Planting trees can be a small piece of the effort but it is not a silver bullet. People perceive it as a cheap and easy way to address climate change and it is much more complicated than it seems.”

https://climatefeedback.org/the-potentials-and-limitations-of-tree-plantings-as-a-climate-solution/

Health Feedback
12/06/2020
Health Feedback

Health Feedback

A CNBC report that “coronavirus patients without symptoms aren’t driving the spread of the virus” led to confusion over the necessity of social distancing and use of face masks. It also served as the basis for misinformation about these public health measures.

Scientists told Health Feedback that a fundamental difference between the scientific and non-scientific interpretation of the word “asymptomatic”, which was not well-explained, led to this confusion. CNBC has since corrected their article to explain the definition of “asymptomatic” for readers and the significance for transmission by pre-symptomatic individuals.

Prof. Nina Fefferman:
“The WHO narrowly defines ‘asymptomatic’ to mean ‘never develops any symptoms at all, during the entire course of being infected’. This is not how the public (or the press) interpret ‘asymptomatic’ - instead, the more common interpretation is about whether or not people who are not obviously ill with COVID-19 related symptoms can spread the infection. The WHO data says they CAN, but calls these people ‘presymptomatic" or else "paucisymptomatic’, meaning presenting few or unusual symptoms. This has VERY different epidemiological importance and it is entirely wrong to interpret the WHO announcement as a criticism of efforts to limit spread from seemingly healthy people who may transmit the virus to others.”

Read more: https://healthfeedback.org/evaluation/people-who-do-not-show-symptoms-contribute-to-significant-covid-19-transmission-contrary-to-cnbc-report/

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