It’s becoming a ubiquitous social media post, the one in which the writer surmises they had Covid-19 before the world even knew about it. “Do you remember how sick everyone was during the holidays?” a Twitter user in Albuquerque, New Mexico posted on March 14. She wondered if an illness she’d had in December had actually been coronavirus, even though the United States’ first confirmed case — from a man who had just returned to Washington state from Wuhan, China — was recorded on January 15.
The tweet got 43,000 retweets. And hundreds replied that they privately had the same idea. “I 100% had coronavirus over Christmas.” “Yes, my thoughts exactly! My entire household came down with it… We had to purchase a bigger humidifier.”
If you don’t know someone who’s been diagnosed with Covid-19, odds are you do know somebody who thinks they may have already had it before cases exploded around the world. It’s a favorite theory among Trump fans like Jack Posobiec, but among many, many others, too. On Sunday, the rapper Styles P told his 500,000 Twitter followers that “In January, I was down for a week and lost about eight pounds,” and that “it had to be” coronavirus.
Amid the confusion of the coronavirus pandemic, we’re desperate to be our own epidemiologists. But retrospective speculation is dangerous.
In recent weeks, the acute testing shortage in the United States has meant that many people with symptoms can’t get tested and are, cruelly, left wondering. But these aren’t the speculations I’m talking about. I’m talking about posts like the one from a friend of a friend, normally a stoic woman. She recalled on Facebook getting what had felt like the flu in October. But “I never had nasal stuff,” she observed. Now she suspects it was coronavirus.
In other Twitter threads, users have said, “I got it the Tuesday before Thanksgiving” or “I’m about 100% sure the coronavirus went through my household… my children had [a] fever for about 24–48 hours.” Some even trace their…