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Pathologist falsely claims COVID-19 is a hoax, no worse than the flu

December 2, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: COVID-19 is “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated” and “just another bad flu.” Roger Hodkinson, a pathologist who identifies himself as the former chairman of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada Examination Committee in Pathology, made the comments by phone during a public meeting in Edmonton, the capital of the Canadian province of Alberta.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Not only is COVID-19 deadlier than the flu, but symptoms can be long-lasting, according to medical experts. Some online posts referred to Hodkinson as a former chairman of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Hodkinson has never been chairman of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the group said.

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THE FACTS: On Nov. 13, while city councilors in Edmonton met to discuss extending the law that requires people to wear face coverings in public places, listeners phoned in to oppose the mandate. Among them was a caller who introduced himself as Hodkinson.

“There is utterly unfounded public hysteria driven by the media and politicians,” said Hodkinson, identifying himself as the former chairman of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada Examination Committee in Pathology and the CEO of a biotech company in North Carolina that sells COVID-19 tests. He went on to call COVID-19 “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public…”

Hodkinson called COVID-19 just “another bad flu” and said “masks were utterly useless,” also claiming that “there is no evidence base for their effectiveness whatsoever.”

But health officials widely agree that the coronavirus is much more dangerous than the flu.

“This [COVID-19] is very different from influenza, much higher mortality, much higher morbidity if you survive it,” said Dr. Luis Ostrosky-Zeichner, a professor of infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. “There’s no sort of long-lasting effects of influenza either. It’s a completely wrong assertion.”

Hodkinson’s claim that masks are “useless” is false. Studies show that masks work to slow the spread of the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has long advised people to wear masks. In November, the CDC said that masks can also protect wearers who are not infected.

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His false comments were recorded, posted on YouTube and then spread on social media.

“Top pathologist Dr. Roger Hodkinson told Canadian government officials in Alberta during a phone conference that the coronavirus pandemic is ‘the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public,’” stated an Instagram post that shared the false claims. The post had more than 26,000 likes. The Instagram post also states that “testing should stop” because it finds the virus in people who have no symptoms, producing false numbers and “driving public hysteria.”

According to Ostrosky-Zeichner, a positive COVID-19 molecular test “pretty much nearly assures that you have genetic material of the virus in your system, whether you have the active infection or are recovering from it.”

On Nov. 20, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada clarified that although Hodkinson was certified as a general pathologist in 1976, he was never a chairman. “We would like to clarify that Dr. Hodkinson is not nor has ever held the position of chairman of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada,” the organization said in a statement.

Members of the Alberta Medical Association also refuted Hodkinson’s claims on Twitter on Nov. 23: The#Alberta Section of Laboratory Physicians endorses the use of masks, hand washing and physical distancing along with all other public health measures to prevent the spread of#COVID19.”

Hodkinson said that he was CEO of a biotechnology company in North Carolina. He is listed as the executive chairman of MutantDX, which is based in Greensboro, North Carolina. According to the license on North Carolina’s secretary of state’s website, the business is active. However, the address listed on the license leads to a condominium complex.

The Associated Press reached out to Hodkinson at a business in Edmonton where he is listed as the CEO, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

The overall U.S. death toll has reached over 260,000, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker, and more than 1.4 million deaths from the disease worldwide since the pandemic started.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536