5 COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories (and Why You Probably Shouldn't Believe Them)

Updated on July 19, 2020
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Julian is a filmmaker and self proclaimed professional amateur photographer. He received his M.A. in Communication from Wichita State.

5 COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories (and Why You Probably Shouldn't Believe Them)


It's a given that the internet's role in effectively shrinking the world around us has created an environment where ideas and messages can be spread quickly and efficiently. Not only this, but it's become increasingly easier for us to form communities online around like-minded individuals and disseminate information through these groups faster and easier as well. Because of this, while conspiracy theories have always fascinated us throughout history, recently it's become an increasingly important phenomenon to consider in a world where misinformation is more abundant and easier to find.

As with any given historical event, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a launching point for a number of conspiracy theories relating to the origins (and assumed purpose) of the virus. Because of the ubiquity of these theories, we're going to take a look at 5 common Coronavirus conspiracy theories, and the counterarguments to show both sides of the aisle and why you shouldn't take them completely as fact.

5. "Every election year since 2004 has a coinciding disease"

H1N1, or the "Swine Flu", was a viral outbreak in 2009.
H1N1, or the "Swine Flu", was a viral outbreak in 2009. | Source


This theory claims that each American election year has a coinciding disease, implying that someone is pulling strings and releasing the pathogens in order to engineer the results of the election.

One of the first tweets to list dates and supposedly corresponding diseases for election years
One of the first tweets to list dates and supposedly corresponding diseases for election years

Why you probably shouldn't believe it

This theory is problematic because it gets a number of its dates wrong. For instance, SARS did not break out in 2004, as it was actually first identified in February of 2003, and was categorized as contained by the U.S. in May of 2003, an entire 7 months before George W. Bush's election year. Additionally, the swine flu (H1N1) started in 2009, which was not an election year. The following year, 2010, however, was a midterm election year for the U.S, which raises another flag: each of these outbreaks affected more than the United States, yet the tweet is assuming that U.S. election cycles predicate the spread of the diseases and doesn't address what constitutes an election. Elections happen at all levels of government, and while the tweet seems to imply that both presidential and midterm elections align with viral outbreaks, it doesn't appear that there are any strong ties that connect the two. It's important to remember that correlation (when it truly exists, as it doesn't in this theory) does not always equal causation.

Conspiracy theories are usually half-baked; this one isn’t even ready to go in the oven.

— Bethania Palma, Snopes

4. "George Soros Owns a Lab in Wuhan that Engineered the Virus"


If you haven't been following things for the past several years, billionaire George Soros has consistently found himself at the heart of far-right conspiracy theories. This conspiracy theory purports that Soros owns the WuXi pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, located in Wuhan, where conspiracy theorists believe the COVID-19 virus was manufactured and subsequently released.

One of the original posts that circulated social media perpetuating the theory.
One of the original posts that circulated social media perpetuating the theory.

Why you probably shouldn't believe it

This theory stems from the fact that WuXi has a location in Wuhan, where the virus originated, and that Soros has been a shareholder in the company since 2011. However, Soros does not own the company like the original post claims, and scientists have determined that the origin of the virus is natural, not man-made as the post suggests.

If anything, this theory is a weak grab from far-right conspirators dedicated to making George Soros out as the boogeyman who's pulling the strings in everything bad that happens nationally and globally.

the genetic data irrefutably show that SARS-CoV-2 is not derived from any previously used virus backbone20. Instead, we propose two scenarios that can plausibly explain the origin of SARS-CoV-2: (i) natural selection in an animal host before zoonotic transfer; and (ii) natural selection in humans following zoonotic transfer.

— Kristian G. Anderson

3. "The Virus is a Bioweapon Developed in a Chinese Lab"



This is perhaps one of the earliest conspiracy theories that began circulating on the social media, and is also the basis for expanded theories on COVID-19 such as the George Soros theory earlier in the list. Essentially, this theory purports that the virus was developed in a lab in Wuhan, where it supposedly escaped and is now wreaking havoc on us. Other variations of the theory talk about the virus being intentionally used for government-planned population control.

This theory in particular shows how widespread conspiracy theories can become, especially when they're picked up and perpetuated by people like the President of the United States.

Why you probably shouldn't believe it

This can be a dangerous thing, especially when theories like this one are causing President Trump to spread misinformation. U.S. intelligence agencies released a report that didn't align with Trump's rhetoric, stating that it was widely agreed that the origins of COVID-19 were natural and not man-made. Additionally, as stated in the previous entry, scientists have confidently concluded that the virus arose from natural circumstances, not in a lab.

The analysis of public genome sequence data from SARS-CoV-2 and related viruses found no evidence that the virus was made in a laboratory or otherwise engineered.

— Scripps Research Institute

2. "Bill Gates Funded the Development of the Coronavirus"

Bill Gates has recently found himself at the center of many COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
Bill Gates has recently found himself at the center of many COVID-19 conspiracy theories. | Source


Whether or not you've been following the development of the pandemic situation, it's very likely you've seen or heard a Bill Gates conspiracy theory in one form or another since the outbreak began in December of 2019. It may seem odd, but it's true: the former Microsoft CEO turned philanthropist has found himself at the heart of many COVID-related conspiracies. The former Microsoft CEO turned philanthropist has likely ended up here because of his foundation's dedication to raising awareness on pandemic preparedness.

But purveyors of disinformation are telling a different story, using several disparate false narratives about Gates. All of the conspiracy theories seem to sow doubt about an eventual vaccine.

The result of Gates' public stance on vaccination research has naturally made him the target for anti-vaccination groups and conspiracy theorists theorizing on the origins of COVID-19. Of the many theories circulating about Gates, one of the more prominent is that he funded the development of the Coronavirus through funding his foundation provided to The Pirbright Institute, and English company specializing in studying infectious diseases affecting farm animals. The fact that Pirbright has a patent on a live attenuated strain of Coronavirus has allowed theorists to quickly and easily tie Gates and his foundation to the current strain of COVID affecting humans.

Among the many theories circulating, there are some that go so far as to assume that Gates is funding the Coronavirus in order to require us to receive mandatory vaccinations to either (a) generate a massive profit for himself or (b) insert tracking devices or something of the like into us via the vaccine.

Why you probably shouldn't believe it

While Pirbright does have a patent on a weakened strain of coronavirus, it's a strain that can potentially be used as a vaccine to prevent respiratory diseases in birds, a spokesperson for the organization clarified that the company does not own a patent on the current strain of Coronavirus that's affecting humans. In fact, there are no patents currently in existence for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Pirbright does not hold any patents on parts of or the complete genome of the SARS-CoV-2 betacoronavirus

— Pirbright Institute

It's really natural that the connections between the Gates Foundation and organizations like Pirbright exist simply because of the foundation's goal of pandemic preparedness. Because they donate money to the cause of their choice, in this case to groups who develop vaccines and conduct disease research, it's completely natural that those links would exist. That doesn't necessarily mean that something nefarious is going on between the groups.

To clear things up, it's even been shown that the Gates Foundation donated money to Pirbright for research on a universal flu vaccine and on another occasion for research into diseases affecting livestock that could potentially make the jump to humans.

The foundation provides the Pirbright Institute with funding to conduct research and surveillance on viral diseases that affect farm animals and viruses that have the potential to spread from animals to humans. We have not funded the development of Pirbright’s coronavirus vaccine for livestock.

— The Gates Foundation

1. "5G towers are causing COVID infections"



The conspiracy theory that cellular towers emit radiation that affects us negatively is not new, but many have been surprised to see new theories tying 5G towers to the Coronavirus pandemic, which has had real world consequences in the UK where conspiracy theorists have gone as far as to set fire to 5G masts.

Every time there's a new update to cellular technology, conspiracy theories tend to follow behind closely, and in this case, there's not much uniformity in the theories that exist. Some theorists think 5G signals emit radiation that lowers your immune system making you more susceptible to catching Coronavirus, while others think COVID is actually radiation poisoning, and others think COVID is a government distraction to allow for mass installation of 5G technology.

While the lack of consistency between the various theories related to 5G should raise red flags, the sheer number and popularity of the theory in general creates an importance in working through it to determine whether there is any merit to what's being purported.

Why you probably shouldn't believe it

One of the first signs that you probably shouldn't believe this theory are the number of scientists who have come out and debunked the various claims that theorists make on the topic. Dr. Eric van Rongen of the International Commission on Non‐Ionizing Radiation Protection has said that the 5G theories come about largely due to people's lack of understanding on the difference between non-ionizing and ionizing radiation.

When people think of radiation, they typically think of harmful ionizing radiation like that of Chernobyl, and aren't aware that there's another type of radiation that's not harmful: non-ionizing radiation.

The kind of radiation we're talking about with 5G has nothing to do with that. It doesn't result in adverse health effects like with ionizing radiation, and there's no solid evidence that any other effects than heating may result from exposure to these types of radiofrequency fields.

— Dr. Eric van Rongen

Not to mention both the FCC and the FDA have stated that there's nothing to worry about in regards to 5G radiowaves. This one's a conflicting point to make, because while the FDA and FCC are reliable sources of information, a conspiracy theorists will disregard the positions of both organizations due to the fact that they're government entities, which theorists naturally have a distrust for.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.


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