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A passenger in a vehicle holds a sign during a protest at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. (AP) A passenger in a vehicle holds a sign during a protest at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. (AP)

A passenger in a vehicle holds a sign during a protest at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. (AP)

By Arielle Kass April 23, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • A Facebook post claimed that a Lansing, Mich., protester announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.

  • The claim was made three days after a massive rally in Lansing that protested stay-at-home orders issued in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • We found no public evidence to suggest that a protester in Lansing then came down with COVID-19.

Thousands of people in vehicles and some on foot clogged streets around Michigan’s capitol April 15 to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home coronavirus order.

"Operation Gridlock," as it was called, was "probably the largest showing to date of conservative pushback against social distancing restrictions," the Washington Post reported

In response, Whitmer, a Democrat elected in 2018, said at a news conference: "We know that this demonstration is going to come at a cost to people’s health." COVID-19 can be spread among people in close proximity who touch each other and don’t wear masks, she said.

Days after the Lansing rally, this claim started popping up on Facebook:

"A Lansing protester just announced his virus test results were positive."

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Given that there are any number of ways a person could make an announcement that wouldn’t necessarily get wide attention, we’re not rating this post on our Truth-O-Meter. But we dug into it enough to know there isn’t conclusive public evidence to suggest that this happened in the manner this Facebook post says.

Michigan ranks near the top among the states in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Whitmer has faced backlash over the restrictions she has put in place to try to slow spread.

We searched Google and Nexis news archives and found no stories about a participant at the rally announcing he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

We did find a number of other posts sharing what appeared to be screenshots of a post to an Operation Gridlock group that read, with misspellings, "Hey, everybody, we did great today!" but that he just received results from his doctor showing he tested positive for COVID-19. He identified himself as "the guy witha dont trad on me flag."

The author of the supposed post is named "Moose Plissken." A search of Facebook users by that name turned up no hits, as did a search of news stories.

Another Facebook user posted that she heard secondhand about a Lansing protester testing positive. According to that user, a woman who attended the rally told a friend of the user that she received positive test results the day after the rally. 

And a different Facebook user claimed in a post four days after the rally that a Lansing protester had just "posted on the private FB protester page that his results came back positive." No link, screenshot or additional information was provided.

The Michigan Conservative Coalition and the Michigan Freedom Fund were identified as organizers of the rally. The coalition told PolitiFact about the Facebook claim: "No knowledge of this." The fund didn’t reply.

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Our Sources

Facebook, post, April 19, 2020

Washington Post, "Chanting ‘lock her up,’ Michigan protesters waving Trump flags mass against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus restrictions," April 16, 2020

Rev.com, video of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer news conference, April 15, 2020

Lansing State Journal, "Thousands converge to protest Michigan governor's stay-home order in 'Operation Gridlock,’" April 16, 2020 

Facebook, post showing a purported post in a screenshot, April 16, 2020

Facebook, post about secondhand knowledge of a protester testing positive, April 16, 2020

Facebook, post about a post to a private protester Facebook group, April 19, 2020

Email, Michigan Conservative Coalition, April 22, 2020

Interview, Michigan Conservative Coalition leader Meshawn Maddock, April 22, 2020

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Arielle Kass

No evidence that a Lansing, Mich., protester said he has COVID-19