Fact check: Conspiracy claims linking COVID-19 reports with the number 322 are nonsense
Claim: Says news stories referencing 322 and COVID-19 are proof cases are being 'synchronized.'
Some people can’t resist a good conspiracy.
Turns out, many also can’t resist one that’s exceptionally easy to disprove.
An array of Facebook posts recently surfaced singling out the number 322 and a purported connection to COVID-19. In a social media landscape rife with claims about manufactured COVID case and death tallies, and conspiracies related to vaccines, 5G cell towers and whatever else, the clear implication is there’s something nefarious going on.
“Nothing to see here except synchronized cases all over the world,” said one post from June 15.
“Google 322 Covid! Why is 322 a magic number!?!” screamed another post from the same day. “How is it that an additional 322 cases of Covid have been reported in Massachusetts, South Korea, Philippines, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Equador, Thailand, Oklahoma, China, Colorado, Armenia, Oman (Middle East), Onondaga (NY), Kerala (India), Simerset (NJ), Kentucky, Wyoming, Borders (UK), Amritsar (India), Thane (India), Camden County (NJ), Iraq, Khaleej (Dubai), and Dakota County (Nebraska)!”
That post was accompanied by 17 different photos noting the number 322 in headlines dating back to March.
We found at least 15 different versions of this claim scattered across Facebook, together shared thousands of times.
The comments on the various posts offer a smorgasbord of explanations. Some noted the “Skull and Bones” secret society at Yale University is also called “Order 322.” Others noted the numbers add up to seven, or that terrorist attacks in London and Brussels occurred on March 22 (3/22).
Allow us to point out the obvious.
You can find this supposed connection to COVID-19 with just about any number in the low three-digit range.
More:Fact check: What's true and what's false about coronavirus?
'Connection' only due to volume of media coverage
We’re in the midst of a global pandemic that is unprecedented in this age of media saturation. There is no time in history where this many media outlets have been so focused for this long on one singular topic — particularly one in which counting stats are so critical and readily available through online searches.
In other words, there are a lot of media outlets posting a lot of numbers.
And America really loves units of government.
Across the nation you’ll find more than 3,000 counties. Beyond that, there are nearly 20,000 incorporated places (primarily cities, towns, villages, boroughs), about 3,000 of which have at least 10,000 people. Add that to the 50 states and, well, the entire rest of the world, and you’ve got a lot of places tallying COVID data that could potentially add up to 322.
But in case you’re somehow not convinced yet, we’ll follow the advice of one poster and Google this.
We ran a Google News search using the terms “322 cases” AND COVID, to find online references to where “322 cases” appeared as a unit on a page that also referenced COVID.
Then we did the same with the numbers around 322. Here’s what we found as of about noon on June 16:
- "320 cases" AND COVID — 8,660 results (larger, since many reports round off the numbers)
- "321 cases" AND COVID — 1,170 results
- "322 cases" AND COVID — 1,960 results
- “323 cases” AND COVID — 2,240 results
- “324 cases” AND COVID — 1,600 results
- “325 cases” AND COVID — 2,530 results
We’ll spare you another set of bullets, but searches with the word “deaths” in place of “cases” yields the same type of results.
In other words, you can find COVID-19 media reports citing any number in that range.
Our ruling: False
We this claim FALSE, as it is not supported by our research. The content of the claim is ridiculous, as is the implication there is something shady or manufactured in the way these tallies are reported. The volume of media reports on COVID-19, the number of cases and the number of local and regional units of government means there is ample opportunity for tallies to add up to just about any number, particularly in the low triple digits. Google searches prove out that 322 isn’t even a particularly common number.
Our fact-check sources
- Google News, various searches, June 16, 2020
- U.S. Census Bureau, City and Town Population Totals: 2010-2019, accessed June 16, 2020
- U.S. Geological Survey, How many counties are in the United States?, accessed June 16, 2020
Contact Eric Litke at (414) 225-5061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ericlitke.
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.