In late January 2022, a piece of text urging people to stop taking COVID-19 tests was falsely attributed to actor Morgan Freeman.
This alleged quote reads: “Stop taking tests and live your life. If you’re sick, stay home. If you feel fine, go about your business. That had been the system for all of human history until the last two years. Time to go back to it.”
This is not a quote from Freeman. While we haven’t been able to find any quotes from Freeman related to COVID-19 tests specifically, the actor did film a public service announcement urging people to trust the experts and to get their COVID-19 vaccinations.
The “stop taking tests” quote originated with a tweet posted by Matt Walsh, conservative political commentator, on Jan. 4. In addition to retweeting this message, many people also started to copy and paste the text into new messages. In late January, someone took this message and created an image graphic featuring a photograph of Freeman.
This is a common tactic for purveyors of misinformation. By attributing the quote to Freeman — a generally well-liked and popular actor — they can make this message appear more palatable to a wider audience.
It should be noted that this viral message does not constitute sound medical advice. For one, taking medical tests (whether it’s an at-home allergy test or a mammogram) is how people find out if they are sick and what might be ailing them, and people have been doing this since long before the COVID-19 pandemic started. Second, many people may be asymptomatic after getting COVID-19. While these people don’t show symptoms (they don’t feel sick) they can still infect others. This is one reason why many businesses require proof of vaccination or a recent negative test result for employees to return to work or for patrons to attend events. Lastly, getting tested for COVID-19 can also help prevent the spread of the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people should get tested for COVID-19 if they are experiencing symptoms, or if they have recently been in contact with someone who tested positive for the disease. The CDC has a “Coronavirus Self-Checker” on its website that can help people assess if they should get tested.
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Schreiber, Melody, and Jonathan Franklin. “A Guide to COVID Tests: When to Test, What Kind to Use and What Your Results Mean.” NPR, 18 Jan. 2022. NPR, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/01/06/1070096493/covid-test-guide.
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Volpe, Allie. “Am I Asymptomatic, or Do I Just Really Not Want to Have Covid-19? A Guide.” Vox, 18 Jan. 2022, https://www.vox.com/22883820/am-i-asymptomatic-covid-symptoms-isolation-quarantine.