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VERIFY: Cornell professor says COVID-19 is real, Facebook post is fake

A viral post claimed the Ivy League professor found COVID-19 to be fake, but that professor has never said such a thing. In fact, he responded and said it's real.

A social media post attributed to Rob Oswald, “a PhD in virology and immunology,” claims that positive COVID-19 samples sent to university labs found no SARS-CoV-2, but flu instead. It says that there is no such thing as COVID-19.

THE QUESTION 

Did a clinical research scientist named Rob Oswald determine that COVID-19 cases are really bouts of the flu?

THE ANSWER 

No. Dr. Robert Oswald, a Cornell University professor whose picture is sometimes included with the meme from the post, says on his faculty page that “COVID-19 is real. Any Facebook post that suggests otherwise is a hoax and is not true.”

WHAT WE FOUND 

The lengthy post claims to be written by “Rob Oswald.” It says that his lab team found influenza A and B but no COVID-19 in 1,500 samples that had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The post includes a number of falsehoods.

It claims that the samples were “collected here in S. California,” but Cornell and Dr. Oswald himself are both in New York.

It says that Oswald has a PhD in virology and immunology. He doesn’t. Oswald is a real professor at Cornell, but he actually holds a PhD in biochemistry. He’s listed as a professor of molecular medicine in the Veterinary College. His research interests involve neurotransmitter receptors and their role in learning, memory and neurological disorders. And at the top of his research interest page, he writes “COVID-19 is real. Any Facebook post that suggests otherwise is a hoax and is not true. Wear a mask, practice social distancing, and get the vaccine when it becomes available.”

The post claims that “no one in any lab in the world has ever isolated” the virus. That’s false. Many researchers isolated the full genome of the virus and have shared their information. 

This claim has shown up on numerous social media sites in recent weeks. The oldest version the VERIFY team could find was in the form of a comment on a blog post on December 6th. In this earlier version of the post, Oswald is not mentioned. 

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