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During a July 27, 2020, press conference, members of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors floated several unproven conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot from Facebook) During a July 27, 2020, press conference, members of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors floated several unproven conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot from Facebook)

During a July 27, 2020, press conference, members of a group called America’s Frontline Doctors floated several unproven conspiracy theories about the coronavirus pandemic. (Screenshot from Facebook)

Sophie Austin
By Sophie Austin July 28, 2020
Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke July 28, 2020
Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg July 28, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • A video published by Breitbart shows a group of doctors saying unproven, false and misleading claims about the coronavirus pandemic. Social media platforms said they were removing the video because the claims contained in it were untrue. 

  • Contrary to what the video claims, there is no known cure for COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine is not a proven treatment, and public health officials advise everyone to wear face masks in public.

  • The video also makes misleading claims about state hydroxychloroquine restrictions, coronavirus case numbers and the impact of nationwide shutdown orders.

A video that was viewed or shared by millions of people on social media shows a group of doctors calling for the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, despite warnings from public health experts. 

The clip shows members of a newly created group called America’s Frontline Doctors at a press conference outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. "We’re here because we feel as though the American people have not heard from all the expertise that’s out there all across our country," said Dr. Simone Gold, the founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, in the video.

President Donald Trump retweeted clips from the summit before Twitter removed versions of the video. Facebook and YouTube have also worked to remove versions of the video from their sites, although several clips of the 40-plus-minute event were still circulating on Facebook. 

Tea Party Patriots, a conservative group that is part of a coalition to end state lockdowns aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, organized the press conference. Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina introduced the doctors at the beginning of the video. Breitbart, a conservative news site, recorded the event.

Many of the doctors’ claims contradict recommendations from public health organizations and experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The video is the latest example of coronavirus misinformation that is packaged as facts to counter more official narratives. 

PolitiFact fact-checked several of the video’s most misleading and inaccurate claims below.

Dr. Stella Immanuel: "This virus has a cure. It is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax. I know you people want to talk about a mask. Hello? You don’t need a mask. There is a cure."

This is False.

First, there is no known cure for COVID-19. Supportive care, such as rest, fluids and fever relievers, can assuage symptoms.

Second, in spite of Immanuel’s anecdotal evidence, hydroxychloroquine alone or in combination with other drugs is not a proven treatment (or cure) for COVID-19. In mid-June, the Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency authorization for the use of hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

While some studies have found that the drug could help alleviate symptoms associated with COVID-19, the research is not conclusive. Few studies have been accepted into peer-reviewed journals. And large, randomized trials are still needed to confirm the findings of studies conducted since the pandemic began.

Finally, health officials advise everyone to wear masks in public. The reason why has to do with how the coronavirus spreads. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they expel respiratory droplets containing the virus. Those droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people nearby.

Since some people infected with the coronavirus may exhibit no symptoms, public health officials say everyone should cover their faces in public — even if they feel well.

— Daniel Funke

Dr. Dan Erickson on lockdowns and reopenings: "So this measured approach I’m talking about isn’t made up. It’s going on in Sweden, and their deaths are about 564 per million. UK, full lockdown, 600 deaths per million. So we’re seeing that the lockdowns aren’t decreasing significantly the amount of deaths per million."

These numbers are in the ballpark, but they’re cherry-picked.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the fatality rate in Sweden is 55.97 per 100,000 people. The government there did not impose a nationwide stay-at-home order and relied on voluntary social distancing. Meanwhile, the fatality rate in the United Kingdom, which did implement a mandatory lockdown, is 68.95 per 100,000.

But Erickson’s point that nationwide stay-at-home rules have no effect on COVID-19 deaths doesn’t hold up.

As of July 28, the U.K. had the highest coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people in the world. That could be due to a number of reasons — a delayed lockdown, an aging citizenry, population density — but the country’s stay-at-home rules did help flatten and eventually decrease the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths.

Meanwhile, Sweden had a slower growth rate at the start of the pandemic, but it increased substantially in April. As of July 28, Sweden had the eighth-highest number of coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people in the world — a rate that’s several times higher than neighboring Finland and Norway, which both implemented nationwide lockdowns. 

Other European countries that implemented stay-at-home orders earlier than the U.K. saw a quicker slowdown in the number of new coronavirus cases. So did cities in Italy and China that were hard-hit in the early days of the pandemic.

Two articles published by Nature suggest that lockdowns helped slow the transmission of COVID-19.

The first analyzed infection and death rates in 11 European countries through early May. It found that more than 3 million additional people would have died due to the coronavirus if lockdowns were not put in place.

The second article analyzed lockdowns in six countries around the world, including the U.S. It found that stay-at-home measures helped prevent tens of millions of new COVID-19 cases.

— Daniel Funke

Dr. Simone Gold: "Many states have empowered their pharmacists to not honor physician prescription."

This is misleading. In efforts to reduce stockpiling, some states have rules and guidance that restrict the dispensing of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. 

In March, before the FDA revoked the emergency authorization of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that pharmacists cannot dispense the drugs except when prescribed for an FDA-approved reason. Other states enacted similar rules, including Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Idaho, with exceptions including a written diagnosis consistent with evidence for its use. Shortages were creating problems for  patients who take the drugs for conditions other than COVID-19, such as lupus.

— Sophie Austin

Dr. Simone Gold: "So the case number is almost irrelevant. And that’s because there’s a lot of inaccuracies with the testing. And also even if the test is accurate, most people are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. So it’s not that important to know."

This ignores how the virus spreads. People without symptoms are able to infect others. As early as June, epidemiologists estimated that 25% to 40% of cases were among people who didn’t show symptoms.  

The fraction of tests that come back positive turns out to be an important red flag. Health and Human Services’ Adm. Brett Giroir called it a leading indicator. With rising positivity rates, "we expect hospitalizations to continue to go up," he said. That puts a strain on hospitals and ultimately leads to more deaths.

— Jon Greenberg

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Our Sources

Business Insider, "Much of Europe is reopening, but none of Sweden's neighbors have relaxed their borders with it after its decision to have no COVID-19 lockdown," June 15, 2020

CNN, "Boris Johnson issues stay-at-home order, sending UK into lockdown to fight coronavirus pandemic," March 23, 2020

CNN, "Social media giants remove viral video with false coronavirus claims that Trump retweeted," July 28, 2020

The Conversation, "Coronavirus: five reasons why the UK death toll is so high," June 10, 2020

The Daily Mirror, "Six reasons UK's death toll may be Europe's highest - including late lockdown," May 7, 2020

Facebook video, July 27, 2020

Food and Drug Administration, "Letter revoking EUA for chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate," June 15, 2020

GoodRx, "Can Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Be Used to Treat Coronavirus (COVID-19)?" July 23, 2020

Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Mortality Analyses, accessed July 28, 2020

NBC News, "Dark money and PAC's coordinated 'reopen' push are behind doctors' viral hydroxychloroquine video," July 28, 2020

The New York Times, "Sweden Has Become the World’s Cautionary Tale," July 7, 2020

The New York Times, "U.K. Coronavirus Map and Case Count," accessed July 28, 2020

Politico Europe, "Are the lockdowns working?" April 20, 2020

PolitiFact, "Don’t fall for this video: Hydroxychloroquine is not a COVID-19 cure," July 28, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking a California reopen protest video," May 14, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking ‘Plandemic’: A documentary full of false conspiracy theories about the coronavirus," May 8, 2020

PolitiFact, "Hydroxychloroquine and coronavirus: what you need to know," April 8, 2020

Retweet from Donald Trump, July 27, 2020

Rev, America’s Frontline Doctors SCOTUS Press Conference Transcript

Wayback Machine, America’s Frontline Doctors Summit, July 28, 2020

Washington Post, Twitter penalizes Donald Trump Jr. for posting hydroxychloroquine misinformation amid coronavirus pandemic, July 28, 2020

Emerging Infectious Diseases,Contact Tracing during Coronavirus Disease Outbreak, South Korea, 2020, June 30, 2020, Cluster of COVID-19 in northern France: A retrospective closed cohort study, April 23, 2020

National Academy for State Health Policy, State Rules and Recommendations Regarding Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine and Other Drugs Related to COVID-19, accessed July 28, 2020

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