The Pandemic of lies and fear

Ever since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, the pandemic has spread to over 150 nations. Schools have closed, restaurants and bars have shut down, and people are canceling vacation plans left and right.

But there’s another highly infectious plague affecting millions of citizens everyday: misinformation. Rumors and myths are popping up online about the virus and our responses to it.

 Fortunately, medical and political experts are continuously squashing them.  

  A rumor that has been forwarded through text messages to countless Americans is that martial law–which would mean that the military would be dispatched to keep every citizen and family inside–will be imposed in response to COVID-19’s increasing presence in the U.S.

Fortunately experts have worked to debunk these rumors. One of them is Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). 

Rubio firmly stood his ground against the martial law rumors. 

“Please stop spreading stupid rumors about marshall (sic) law. COMPLETELY FALSE. We will continue to see closings & restrictions on hours of non-essential businesses in certain cities & states. But that is NOT martial law,” said Rubio in a tweet last Tuesday.

Another common myth surrounding COVID-19 is that young children and teens are naturally immune to the virus. Lies like this have caused many parents to assume their children have nothing to worry about, and forgo crucial measures like social distancing or self-quarantines. While the virus is less likely to severely affect younger people like teenagers or children, this by no means makes them “immune” to the virus.

  According to a New York Times article, “A study from a Chinese journal published in the peer-reviewed magazine Pediatrics states that out of 2,143 cases of coronavirus among children were confirmed through laboratory testing, while the rest were suspected cases based on patterns shown through the child’s blood tests and x-rays.” 

Another piece of coronavirus fake news that’s been making the rounds recently is that if someone were to hold their breath for 10 seconds without coughing, that’s a telltale sign that they are coronavirus-free. 

 But Gavin McGregor Skinner, an infectious disease expert at Penn State University, quickly debunked this mistruth. 

“There is no barometer like that anywhere in the human respiratory system. If you have any respiratory distress like shortness of breath or if you have a fever, you need to pick up the phone and tell people what those symptoms are,” said Skinner in a CNN interview.

Perhaps the most infamous rumor is the origin of the coronavirus itself. Many speculate that the pandemic started when a woman in Wuhan devoured a bowl of “bat soup.” While it is factually correct that the virus most likely originated in an animal market, this specific story was never confirmed and the virus is not spread through ingestion.     

Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the general public or the top officials charged with overseeing the treatment of the virus, like Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), from continuing to spread this mistruth.

 “China is to blame, because of the culture there where people eat dogs and bats and things like that,” said Cornyn in a statement picked up by NBC News on Wednesday.

  The coronavirus and the rumors that spread based around it are neck-and-neck when it comes to the magnitude of their grip on society. Rumors like ones that claim cocaine is a potent weapon against the epidemic undermine the powerful truths about how to beat the disease: stay active, wash your hands, fact check everything, and don’t believe everything you hear.