A screengrab of a fake news article about coronavirus shutting down a San Diego-area school made its rounds on social media Thursday.
The screengrab falsely claimed the Poway Unified School District would close schools next week due to COVID-19. NBC 7 did not publish this article; the screengrab showed an altered article made to look like an NBC 7 article. The image of the false article circulated on SnapChat. PUSD has not canceled classes, as the false article claimed.
Hoax headlines and rumors about COVID-19 at local schools have been circulating since as early as January.
This past Tuesday, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District set the record straight after a prank news website led students to believe a COVID-19 case had been confirmed on the community college campus. The website also claimed there were “many more infected” at the campus and said school would be canceled “for the next couple of days.”
In late January, hoax news articles circulating on social media had students and parents worried there were infected people who visited local campuses.
Students said they saw three different versions of fake news stories posted on Snapchat. They claimed students at three different schools were being tested for the virus.
At least one of the fake article clippings included the San Diego Union-Tribune’s masthead.
Many students told NBC 7 they could tell the articles were fake. The Grossmont Union High School District reiterated that prank articles were completely inaccurate.
A Grossmont Union High School District spokesperson said the hoax articles referencing Grossmont High School and Mount Miguel High School originated on a website called Channel22News.com, which is a prank website. The site allows users to create a prank news article, take a screenshot of it and then post it to social media.
The article with the UT’s masthead referencing West Hills High School is slightly different, as it appears to be an actual article about the virus led with a doctored headline.
That article looked legitimate enough for some students to become concerned, including some at West Hills High School in Santee.
The stir was enough for the district to release a statement warning of the prank. The district spokesperson said the prank did not affect attendance at any of the three high schools mentioned.