While the coronavirus outbreak has caused concern for the world’s most prominent people all over the globe, the one thing the public has largely been able to avoid are false rumors. That doesn’t mean there aren’t corners of the internet that haven’t started and fanned the flames of false claims. However, for the most part, people who are looked at as “leaders” in the world community have largely avoided saying anything that could start a panic. That’s why Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak’s social media posts on Monday raised more than a few eyebrows.
The man many refer to simply as “Woz” took to his Swarm App account to post a message that startled his followers.
“Checking out Janet’s bad cough. Started Jan. 4. We had just returned from China and may have both been patient zero in U.S.”
The coronavirus originated in a relatively small town in China and then exploded first throughout the country and then the world. Last week, the first confirmed cases of the disease were recorded in the United States by human contact. While the timing might work out in Wozniak’s head, it turns out he had posted an apparent false alarm.
USA Today‘s Jessica Guynn took to twitter later on Monday after talking to Wozniak’s wife about her illness. Guynn tweeted that Janet told her her illness was nothing more than a sinus infection. This is after Woz and his wife went to the doctor, so Janet is presumably not just guessing at this point.
So why would someone who is as revered in the tech community as Steve Wozniak claim he or his wife might be patient zero for the coronavirus in the U.S. without any evidence or checking it out first? As Gizmodo points out, it’s possible he did it by accident.
Despite helping Steve Jobs found Apple, Wozniak is not someone who feels the need to pontificate on every little thing on social media. At times, he’s even gone into self-imposed exile and he intentionally avoids the major sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The problem is that he hasn’t necessarily put safeguards in place either. The site points out Woz has linked his Swarm account to Twitter and subsequently gained hundreds of thousands of followers. When he posted he might be patient zero, those hundreds of thousands of people saw it and wondered if it could possibly be true.
In a country that is nervous about the way the government is handling the spread of the coronavirus, those with the kind of following Steve Wozniak has are going to need to be more careful in the future.