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COVID-19 faulty evidence

At-home COVID-19 tests can’t be used to test drinking water

Social media posts showing tap water making at-home COVID-19 antigen tests turn positive are not evidence that there is coronavirus in the water supply. The tests were never intended to be used with water, which can cause a faulty or inaccurate result. Let’s take a look at the facts.

A screenshot of a TikTok video showing someone holding an at- home COVID-19 antigen test over a sink with the water running. The text on the video says “This is true!!” and “Tap water tests positive for covid.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says “FALSE.”
Putting tap water on an at-home COVID-19 antigen test does not test the water for COVID-19.
Misusing home antigen tests by putting water or any other liquid on them instead of the “extraction reagent” provided by the manufacturer can lead to inaccurate or misleading results.
According to the World Health Organization, the “SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies” because “water treatment methods neutralize infectious pathogens present in the water.”
Many municipalities across the United States monitor wastewater (sewage) for the presence of coronavirus as a way to detect outbreaks of COVID-19.

NewsLit takeaway

This video, and similar rumors about at-home tests and water, gained enormous exposure online in a short amount of time — in part because they bring together three drivers of misinformation: fear-inducing claims, subject matter that requires specialized knowledge and compelling visuals. Strong emotional reactions, such as fear, can cause people to jump to conclusions without stopping to carefully evaluate accuracy or authenticity of claims, or the strength of evidence presented. It’s also easy to mistake faulty “evidence” for actual evidence online, particularly when it involves science-based claims that many people lack the expertise to evaluate. Finally, the use of video in this particular example of this rumor — in which people can watch the test turn “positive” — makes it seem even more compelling.

Here is a full copy of the video:

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