"With the COVID thing, more people are looking up," said Chris DePerno, a retired police detective. And what they're seeing more often are UFOs. Reported sightings rose nationally last year to more than 7,200, up 1,000 from 2019. In New York state, where DePerno works with the Mutual UFO Network, reports almost doubled to 300, figures from the National UFO Reporting Center show. One reason could be that many people have moved from New York City, for example, to less urban areas that don't have much light pollution, the New York Times reports. "They come up toward the Hudson Valley, it’s beautiful up there, you get clear skies," DePerno said, "and then all of a sudden you see this thing zipping through the sky that stopped on a dime, goes straight up, takes off again, stops, comes back—we’re talking incredible speeds."
Another reason is that the federal government has committed to compiling and releasing reports about UFO sightings to the public. That has encouraged people like Peter Davenport, director of NUFORC. Until now, he said, the message from government seemed to be "that people like me are just crazy—and we're not." Everyone involved says the increase in sightings doesn't indicate a fleet of UFOs hovering above us. NUFORC says that most sightings turn out to be satellites, planes, birds or drones. The upcoming report might change that. "There are instances where we don't have good explanations for some of the things that we've seen," John Ratcliffe, former director of National Intelligence, said last month on Fox News. Those things include movements by a craft that are hard to replicate or something moving at speeds that break the sound barrier without causing a sonic boom, per USA Today. (Read more UFO stories.)