Viral thoughts: Why COVID-19 conspiracy theories persist

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Conspiracy theories about the coronavirus have flourished since the global pandemic was declared a year ago.

Researchers want to know why, and are examining the reasons some people believe conspiracy theories and others don’t.

They say conspiracy theories can give people a false sense of security during stressful times, and that political polarization and social media have only added to the problem.

The conspiracy theories have caused real-world problems: A vaccine clinic was delayed by anti-vaccine protesters, medical workers have been harassed, and cell towers have been burned because of bizarre claims about COVID-19.

Researchers say their findings could help us improve our pandemic response while also addressing the broader problem of online misinformation.