The COVID-19 pandemic and global lockdowns sparked a rise in paranoia and conspiracy theory indulgences - that data has been well-measured and established; but did you also know that UFO sightings spiked during the year 2020? According to a new report, claims of UFO sightings increased by a thousand last year compared to 2019, for a total of 7,200+ sightings. In certain regions (ex: New York) UFO sightings apparently doubled in number in 2020 - with the highest frequency of sightings occurring between March and April 2020, when COVID lockdowns initially swept across the US, and people were on edge, to say the least.
The New York Times notes in its report that besides the obvious heightened fear and anxiety (and yes, boredom) during the first wave of lockdowns, another contributing factor to more UFO sightings was the US government declassifying actual UFO sightings from the Pentagon's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. That includes a video from 2004 and two from 2015, which had previously been released to the public in 2007 and 2017, respectively.
"After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena," Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough said in a statement.
"It was an actual object that we tracked ... for somewhere around five minutes, before it rapidly accelerated,” retired U.S. Navy pilot David Fravor told CNN in 2017. “This was extremely abrupt, like a ping pong ball, bouncing off a wall. It would hit and go the other way."
Of course, the fact that the government admitted UFOs are real didn't mean the public made the right calls about where and when they were seeing them. National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) director Peter Davenport makes it clear that a lot of the "reports" that came in during 2020 were far from being alien vessels, and were instead “swiftly determined to be things like birds, bats, satellites, planes and drones." One major "sighting" in New Jersey that went viral turned out to be a Goodyear blimp.
So there you have it: 2020's spike in UFO sightings is equal parts people having too much extra time (and a lot of isolated time surfing the Internet) on their hands, and actual confirmations that UFOs are indeed out there. Take that how you will - and keep watching the skies. A lot of people still have "Alien Invasion" on their 2021 bingo card.