On April 19, Facebook profile Daji Mamulashvili published a post allegedly involving remarks by Dr. Derek Knauss. According to the post, Dr. Knauss tested 1,500 positive COVID- samples and none of them contained the coronavirus. He claims that the tests contained type A and type B influenza viruses. The post also notes that the results were sent to several laboratories and the same results were received. Later, Dr. Knauss applied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requesting live COVID-19 samples, but the latter responded that it had no such samples. Knauss claims that not a single laboratory has isolated the coronavirus that confirms that COVID-19 is a fiction and in fact, the virus is nothing but yet another flu strain.
The posts spreading identical texts are accompanied by a photo depicting a man. The photo has a Georgian-language caption “COVID-19 is a fictional virus - Dr. Derek Knauss, Doctor of Medical Sciences, virologist, immunologist.” The posts indicate Telegram’s link as the source, while the photo caption provides Telegram’s another channel as the source.
Facebook profile Nona Agdgomelashvili uploaded a video featuring the man depicted in the photo. The video has a Russian voice-over and it echoes the claims voiced in the text.
The text spread by Georgian anti-vaxxers allegedly involves remarks by fictional Dr. Derek Knauss. Neither the latter nor his studies can be found in scientific databases. The text contains disinformation, because: 1. COVID-19 is not a new strain of influenza; 2. COVID-19 virus was isolated in several labs.
The man featuring in the videos and photos is Patrick Gunnels, a YouTuber, who reads out tweets in his videos. Apparently, he also read out the text in question and was passed off as Dr. Knauss.
The text of the posts spread by Georgian anti-vaxxers allegedly involves remarks by Dr. Derek Knauss. Neither the Doctor with this name nor any study conducted on COVID-positive tests can be found in scientific databases. The Spanish fact-checking organization Maldita writes that the name of Dr. Derek Knauss from California does not appear on ResearchGate or Google Scholar, the web search engines for scholarly literature.
Along with Georgia, identical texts were also spread in many other countries and along with Derek Knauss, they also involve fictional Dr. Joe Rizoli and Dr. Andrew Wye. Moreover, some sources attributed the text to Dr. Rob Oswald, who is a real person, but the text questioning the existence of COVID-19 does not belong to Oswald. In fact, Robert Oswald works at the Department of Molecular Medicine, Cornell University. He updated his page on the university’s website, noting that COVID-19 is real. Later, he confirmed to Snopes that he had no links with the spread disinformation.
According to Snopes, the text has been circulating online since December 6, when an anonymous blogger named “Sojourner” posted it in the comments section of an article published on Wadeburleson.org. However, this version does not mention the name of any doctor. The author of the comment noted that he is not a professional and simply copied the text, without specifying from where.
The photos and the video show not Dr. Knauss, but pro-Trump YouTuber Patrick Gunnels
The posts are accompanied by a photo depicting a man. According to its caption, the man is Derek Knauss, Doctor of Medical Sciences who claims that the coronavirus is a fiction. One of the posts also provides a video featuring the same man.
In fact, the man depicted in the photo is not Dr. Knauss, but rather YouTuber Patrick Gunnels. The latter runs a YouTube channel Reading Epic Threads created in 2019. In his videos, Gunnels mainly reads out and discusses the tweets of various users.
The majority of his videos mainly cover political developments in the United States. After monitoring his YouTube channel, we concluded that Gunnels is Donald Trump’s supporter. He has recorded a number of videos about “Biden corruption scandal.” In a number of videos, Gunnels reads out the tweets, stressing Trump’s advantage in the debates between him and Biden.
A video with a caption “Stop The Steal” (referring to the 2020 presidential elections in the U.S.) has been uploaded on Gunnels’ YouTube channel. In the video, he is wearing a cap with Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” and is attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington. The video was published on January 6, 2021, the day when Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
If we compare the video allegedly featuring Dr. Knauss with YouTube videos uploaded by Patrick Gunnels, we will see that they were recorded against the same grey background. In addition, Patrick Gunnels wears eyeglasses in other videos too.
Like other tweets, Gunnels apparently read out the text allegedly involving the remarks by Dr. Knauss in one of his videos. As of April 21, the video, in which he reads out this text, is no longer available on his YouTube channel. However, on April 14, he uploaded a video, where he says that his channel has two strikes and if he gets the third strike, YouTube will delete his channel. Gunnels notes that he spoke out about the issues that were undesirable to YouTube. Due to this, he was warned. It may be just the video in question, because the text spread on behalf of Dr. Knauss contains disinformation.
COVID-19 is not a new strain of influenza
The claim as if COVID-19 is a fiction and the virus circulating worldwide is another strain of influenza is false.
Both coronavirus and influenza are respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. They have similarities and differences. For example, flu does not cause a person to suddenly lose their sense of smell or taste. Many people infected with the coronavirus do not feel sick or have any symptoms at all, but they can still transmit the coronavirus to other people. According to the World Health Organization, unlike influenza, the novel coronavirus is more contagious and spreads more rapidly. Moreover, COVID-19 cases are more likely to cause complications.
The article released by AFP Factual refers to the study published in The Lancet, which compared patients with COVID-19 hospitalized between March and April 2020 with those hospitalized with influenza during the seasonal outbreak of the disease between December 2018 and February 2019. According to the study, hospital mortality was significantly higher among COVID-19 patients (16.9%), compared to influenza patients (5.8%). Moreover, the average stay in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for COVID-19 patients was twice longer than for influenza patients. Thus, researchers concluded that COVID-19 is a more serious disease than influenza.
COVID-19 virus has been isolated and identified
The author’s claim as if laboratories have not isolated the coronavirus is disinformation. The virus was isolated in a number of countries, including China and the United States. On January 7, 2020, China isolated the virus strain and identified the novel coronavirus. China shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus to the WHO on 12 January. The National Center for Biotechnology Information provides information about complete genome of the isolated virus.
Furthermore, in June 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published an article, which thoroughly discusses how SARS-CoV-2 was isolated.
See Myth Detector’s article on the topic:
Has coronavirus been isolated and is it possible to request public information about the existence of coronavirus?
by Mariam Talakhadze
The article has been written in the framework of Facebook’s fact-checking program. You can read more about the restrictions that Facebook may impose based on this article via this link. You can find information about appealing or editing our assessment via this link.