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VERIFY: Here's the real story behind the '322 COVID conspiracy'

A new conspiracy theory is circulating on social media claiming that multiple jurisdictions have reported 322 cases of COVID-19, signaling a manufactured crisis.

WASHINGTON — Question:

Is there any evidence to back up a conspiracy theory being shared on social media claiming that governments from across the world are reporting 322 cases or deaths from coronavirus, indicating a manufactured crisis? 

Answer: 

No. This type of conspiracy can be manufactured for essentially any three-digit number. There's no evidence to back up this conspiracy theory.

Process:

The Verify team has been following numerous social media posts pointing attention to the number 322 as it relates to COVID-19. 

"Google 322 COVID," one person wrote on Facebook. "Why is 322 a magic number!?"

The poster then asks "how is it that an additional 322 cases of COVID have been reported" in numerous jurisdictions from Massachusetts and Mississippi, to Thailand and Iraq? 

Other posts include clippings of news stories in which the number 322 was included in the headline, either as the number of new cases or new deaths related to COVID-19. 

"Nothing to see here except synchronized cases all over the world," wrote one user on Facebook. 

The Verify team looked into the news clippings and found that they are real, although the connection is loose. The headlines, used in the graphic, have been grabbed from stories spanning back four months. The 322 headline for Thailand was taken from a March story. The Wyoming headline was published in April. The Wisconsin reference was from a June story. 

This type of false trend can be made for essentially any three-digit number. 

For example, the Verify team searched Google for "245 COVID," and found numerous articles with that number in the headline, including articles from Kansas, Washington, Kentucky and South Carolina. The same can be said about a search for "315 COVID," which resulted in headlines from Kentucky, Texas and Tennessee.

Here's why this is happening. There are more than 19,000 cities and more than 3,000 counties in the United States alone. The number of local and national jurisdictions outside of the United States would be incredibly difficult to calculate.

With this many governing bodies, individually tracking COVID-19 cases, repetition in the numbers is inevitable.

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