A COVID-19 Prophecy: Did Nostradamus Have a Prediction About This Apocalyptic Year?

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In early April of 2020, Rae Alexandra wrote an article for KQED titled "Perhaps Nostradamus Predicted Coronavirus After All…" — a headline that’s sure to give some readers pause. However, the journalist is quick to point out that memes circulating Facebook during the pandemic’s onset, which claimed the 16th-century French astrologer prophesied 2020’s novel coronavirus, were not backed by fact. For the uninitiated, Nostradamus was not just an astrologer and physician, but also a reputed seer.

Thanks to his 1555 book, The Prophecies, Nostradamus earned quite a reputation and has since been credited with predicting quite a few landmark events, from the French Revolution to 9/11. Like any seer worth their salt, he also predicted when the world will end. So, why not buy into the fact that he predicted COVID-19 as well? The Facebook post that seemingly started it all claimed that Nostradamus predicted the coronavirus in a 1551 passage about "a plague spreading from the east," though multiple fact-checkers have deemed this not only inaccurate, but also totally fabricated. PolitiFact noted that its fact-checkers couldn’t even find the passage the meme post allegedly quoted. So, the question remains: How could any part of this prophecy possibly ring true?