New information about COVID-19 is literally dispersed around the clock, filling our newsfeeds with facts and stats, opinions, recaps and projections, photos and graphics, and even a few memes to ground us and give us a laugh here and there. As expected, there is a lot of misinformation floating around out there, too; rumors and hearsay that lead to days if not weeks of news coverage, spark public debates and generate more shares on Facebook than can be counted, despite the fact that they may be unwarranted. Among the ones I have heard most recently:
- Kids are immune.
- If I’m young and healthy, I don’t have to worry as much about contracting the virus.
- I don’t need to wear a mask because I am not sick.
- Using a mask and gloves is making people sicker.
- If I test positive for the virus, I don’t have to worry about getting it again.
- The flu shot increased my chances for getting COVID-19.
- When I got the flu shot, I was injected with a coronavirus.
- This will all go away once the weather is warm.
- Ingested/injected beach and disinfectants can kill the virus.
- A mixture of saline, garlic and sesame oil can prevent COVID-19.
- Hospitals get more money from the government if they treat a lot of COVID-19 patients.
- The number of deaths being reported is being deliberately falsified.
And, the list goes on …
The volume of rumors and misinformation surrounding this global health pandemic is so significant that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even added a page to its website with the headline “Stop the Spread of Rumors.” It provides five sound and solid facts in response to some of the most common rumors circulating. Click here to access it. Along with the CDC’s guidance, I would like to offer five recommendations of my own, with a goal to help you navigate and process the information overload you are likely experiencing.
- Separate facts from potential facts. Don’t interpret everything you hear to be research or evidence-based. Know that sometimes an idea that is being considered or contemplated, or an opinion that is rallying a great deal of discussion ends up being reported as fact or even breaking news. Be selective in who you identify as your trusted sources of information and try to avoid being consumed by the countless topics being discussed under the premise of “possible, maybe and potential.”
- Use social media cautiously. As you scroll through your newsfeeds, you will be able to gather a sense of what the court of public opinion is on many, many issues. Although valuable news can be found and shared on these platforms, in some cases, opinion is presented as fact. Tread cautiously as you take in information and especially as you share information on your social media pages.
- Expect misinformation and rumors. When an issue consumes our lives and changes the world as we know it, misinformation and rumors will absolutely be in the mix. What we are seeing in the mist of COVID-19 is just one example of that. Knowing this and accepting this will impact how you consume, process and act on information.
- Know that opinions vary. At all times, but especially during times of crisis, it is important to recognize that the court of public opinion weighs heavily on our perceptions, our reactions and how we decipher fact from fiction. Opinions are literally all over the board. Keep this in mind as you digest and internalize what you see and hear. Again, trust your source and understand their sources of truth.
- Make decisions based on what is right for you. We all have a lot of decisions to make as we attempt to transition our lives back to some level of normalcy. If you hear something reported that is especially concerning, or that has the potential to impact you greatly and you need to know more, practice due diligence. Tap into those trusted sources for information and do some digging to find more information so that you can make decisions based on fact, rather than opinion, and focused on what is right for you.