Let’s set the record straight. There are no confirmed Coronavirus cases in Watsonville and we did not report that absolute falsehood. I can say that with 100 percent certainty.
For those that do not know, someone on the internet was playing a game earlier this week. They pulled off a very simple tech trick and made it seem like our website had published a story that confirmed the virus had reached our city. That’s all it was. A trick. A game for some but not for all.
This might have been a throwaway joke that came about on lazy Tuesday morning. Some of you might have gotten a chuckle out of it, but other folks were concerned, scared and confused. Over the course of the week, the calls, emails and social media messages piled up. People were wondering whether this was true, and some were on the verge of boarding up their doors or evacuating the city. I’m sure whoever pulled this prank thought it would be funny to watch people scramble, but I don’t see the humor in this joke.
Because of Watsonville’s demographics, fake or misleading stories such as these spread like wildfire. Several Spanish-speaking residents in the area don’t speak very much English and others might not understand how the internet or reporting works. For instance, when there was a report in 2011 that a tsunami was set to hit the Santa Cruz County shoreline, Spanish-speaking residents ran for the hills. They didn’t read the article. They probably didn’t watch any of the local reporting. They simply heard a tsunami was on its way and it was going to wreak havoc. Of course, it did—the series of waves caused an estimated $14 million of damage at the Santa Cruz Harbor—but it wasn’t the towering 50-foot wave that the Latino community thought it was going to be.
To knowingly spread lies and cause a panic among the community in such a way is grotesque, thoughtless and childish. I would say I hope this never happens again, but, in the time in which we live, I know it will. So next time you see something that seems too crazy to be true being spread around social media—especially Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook—check our website and don’t hesitate to call or email the office.
Contact Pajaronian Managing Editor Tony Nuñez at [email protected]