On April 15 2020, a viral tweet asserted Trump White House advisor Kellyanne Conway appeared on Fox News, stating “this isn’t COVID-1” when discussing challenges posed by the novel coronavirus and COVID-19:
Iterations of the tweet spread in screenshot form on Facebook and other platforms, with only the text of the tweet visible or accessible. It read:
Kellyanne Conway: “This is COVID-19, not COVID-1 folks, and so you would think the people in charge of the World Health Organization, facts and figures, would be on top of that.”
The tweet above was liked and shared thousands of times, but a follow-up tweet from the same user was even more popular. In that second tweet, @revrrlewis maintained that Conway’s phrasing suggested she believed that COVID-19 was the nineteenth coronavirus in a series:
the “19” stands for 2019, the year it was discovered, not that this is the 19th time that this virus has appeared. kellyanne conway probably knows this; she’s just serving dumbass lines that sound good because it gets the base riled up. what was that about putting politics aside?
A similarly popular retweet of the clip included the following commentary:
Kellyanne Conway’s stupid ass thinks there was a COVID-1 through 18 before
#COVID19 and doesn’t know the 19 stands for 2019.
How COVID-19 Got Its Name
The “19” in COVID-19 was came from for the year in which it was identified by epidemiologists:
On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practiceexternal iconexternal icon for naming of new human infectious diseases.
What Kellyanne Conway Said About “COVID-1” and the World Health Organization
On April 15 2020, Conway appeared on Fox News’ morning show Fox & Friends.
As she broadly discussed the federal government’s early response to a then-emerging pandemic, Conway made a confusing statement about a resurgence of COVID-19 in the autumn of 2020, adding:
The President took decisive and immediate action at the end of January  to shut down flights to China. That was criticized by the WHO. It was criticized by other people as xenophobic and racist and travel bans don’t work.
Well, this one sure did. We have every right to know. And every right to know because what’s happened here in this global pandemic.
But there’s another reason, some of the scientists and doctors say that there could be other strains later on. This could come back in the fall in a limited way.
This is COVID-19, not COVID-1, folks. You would think that people charged with the World Health Organization facts and figures would be on top of that.
This is just a pause right now. So there is an investigation, examination to what happened. But people should know the facts.
Conway’s statement was broadly interpreted as indicative she believed that the World Health Organization had “18 COVIDs” to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic:
Did Kellyanne Conway Believe COVID-1 Through COVID-18 Preceded COVID-19?
It’s impossible to parse or decipher the meaning behind Conway’s assertion that “this is COVID-19, not COVID-1, folks” for several reasons. Nevertheless, the statement was accurately described in many tweets — Conway, while criticizing the WHO, stated COVID-19 was “not COVID-1.”