Facts Matter: Ice cream won't make you vulnerable to COVID-19

An old message listing false information about the coronavirus is being delivered in a new format.

An audio message on Facebook Messenger offers ways people can avoid being infected with the virus, but none are backed up by evidence, according to

In the audio, a woman with a British accent said the information was sent “by a colleague who has a friend” who works with a doctor at a hospital in Spain's Canary Islands.

PolitiFact took a look at five of the claims made in the message:

• Medical professionals recommend staying hydrated, but the audio message said sipping water every 20 minute would prevent the infection. In a Twitter post, the World Health Organization said consuming water does not prevent COVID-19.

• Hanging your clothes in sunlight will not kill the virus. Sunlight doesn't have the UV intensity to kill the virus, and the WHO said the virus can be transmitted in all weather, including a hot climate.

• The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at, recommends taking 20 seconds each time you wash your hands but does not say, as stated in the message, to wash your hands every 20 minutes.

• The audio post also tells people to “avoid eating and drinking cold things.” But there is no evidence to support that. A fake post last month, which was attributed to UNICEF, told people to avoid ice cream. The organization later debunked that claim.

Fauci's facts off on Italy's travel ban

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the highly respected immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has made frequent TV appearances as part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force to talk about the disease.

But he didn't have his facts straight about Italy's flight ban, <URL destination="">according to The Washington Post.

</URL>During a March 19 interview on NBC News, Fauci touted President Donald Trump's decision to restrict travel for non-U. S. citizens from China, effective Feb. 2, and from Europe, on March 11.

“Unfortunately, Italy did not do that,” Fauci said. “They had an open border; they let people in.”

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, the WHO declared a global health emergency on Jan. 30. The next day, Italy's prime minister declared a state of emergency and banned all flights to and from China, even as the WHO recommended not restricting travel, the Post said. The measure also included a health check of anyone on a flight to Italy.

At that time, there were only two known cases of coronavirus in Italy. But health officials believe the virus had already been in the country for weeks and, by the time Italy stopped travel, “the horse was already out of the barn,” the Post said.

Government not paying for census response

Recent social media posts have falsely claimed people will receive money for filling out the census, according to The Associated Press.

The posts, encouraging users to fill out census forms that were mailed out earlier this month, claim responders will receive a stimulus check from the federal government.

Late Wednesday, the Senate passed a $2.2 trillion rescue package designed to boost the economy that has been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. The House of Representatives approved the package on Friday.

But if Americans receive money from that package, it won't be because of the census, the AP said. Federal law prohibits the government from sharing or using census information for anything other than statistics — so it definitely couldn't be used to issue stimulus checks.

“Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for any government benefits, including any potential stimulus package,” the U.S. Census Bureau said in a statement last week

The federal government conducts a census every 10 years.

No new virus

Despite rumors, experts do not know of a person who died from a new hantavirus in China, according to a new Federal Emergency Management Agency website at

For one thing, hantavirus is not new. It was first observed in the 1950s in Asia during the Korean War, according to the CDC, and in the United States in 1993 in the Four Corners area in the Southwest. It is spread to humans through contact with the waste products of infected rodents. Transmission from one human to another may occur, but is extremely rare.

The federal government's new rumor-busting effort joins as a source of information about the outbreak.

FEMA has used a rumor control website in the past during other disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina.

“We field a lot of calls on the national level,” said Kevin T. Sur, FEMA external affairs officer for DuPage County.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at

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