FACT CHECK: Viral Image Claims To Show Train Car With COVID-19 Marking

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

An image shared on Facebook purportedly shows a train car with the marking “COVID-19” on its side.

Verdict: False

The image has been digitally altered to include the marking “COVID-19.” The label does not meet the official standard for railroad markings.

Fact Check: 

The sharing of coronavirus-related misinformation and conspiracy theories has coincided with the global spread of the COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.

In recent days, social media users have been sharing images of a train tank car labeled “COVID-19.” This particular post also appears to be suggesting that the U.S. government was behind the spread of the virus.

“Pretty bold. Cargo train in DC,” reads the caption. “#Dothemathondaspread.” (RELATED: Does Sunlight Kill The Coronavirus?)

Fuller versions of the photo reveal that the train tank car bears the markings of GATX Corporation, a global railcar lessor that operates in North America. The “COVID-19” label appears to have been superimposed into the image, as a video of similar tankers on the GATX website shows they do not have them.

The American Railroad Association, which sets the standard food railroad car markings, requires reporting marks have “two, three, or four letters” and a “number of up to six digits,” according to Trains Magazine. Railinc, a company that manages a database for the North American train industry, has no record of the “COVID-19” mark featured in the Facebook post.

“We have no mark registered in our system that matches to COVID,” Steven Hinkson, a communications director at Railinc, told The Associated Press. “Further, the rules governing registered marks only allow for 2-4 alphanumeric characters. COVID would not meet that standard.”

The new coronavirus first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has since triggered a global pandemic. At press time, the new virus has sickened some 1.3 million people worldwide and killed some 78,500 others, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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