Getting the Facts on the Coronavirus
By Kendra Miller 4/26/2020
There is an incredible amount of information available on the COVID-19 virus, the problem is that some of it is accurate and much of it is not. The mainstream media, recognizing that people ensconced in their homes are watching and reading more than they would normally, are feeding that obsession with inflammatory headlines to capture your attention and draw you into their reports.
It’s important to be informed, but it is equally vital that you get your information from reputable sources, which is harder and harder to do in this current news climate. While social media might be a great way to keep up with family and friends, it may not always be the best source for accurate information. Anyone can post anything at any time and reposting information tends to give it an air of legitimacy even if undeserved. And if you’re just following the soundbites from the mainstream news shows, you’re only getting bites of news without the full context. The medical briefings from the President and Vice President are good examples. If you take the time to watch more than 15 seconds, you’ll have a better understanding of what they are really thinking and saying.
Many of the decisions made regarding COVID-19 were based on fear and a lack of significant facts. The models used and the numbers extrapolated initially were inaccurate based on what many cities are currently seeing. Part of this is because China was not accurate in the numbers it was reporting, and it limited the information allowed out of the country. They expelled reporters from several major news organizations to control what was reported about the impacts of the coronavirus and the number of deaths there. In a country with 1.4 billion people, it is interesting that there have only been 83,909 cases of COVID-19. Compare this to the U.S. with a population of 329 million people, but there have been 963,168 cases of COVID-19 reported according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Preliminary numbers indicate that COVID-19 seems to share several characteristics with other types of influenza. In California, as of 4/26/20, there were 41,147 cases of COVID-19 that resulted in 1,651 deaths, meaning people who contracted the virus have a .04% chance of dying from it. That fact isn’t as sexy and attention-grabbing as telling people about the total number of new cases, but if you don’t bother to do the math, you don’t get the full story. Other states have seen similarly low numbers of deaths.
When you look for information, get it from several different sources – multiple news outlets, information from universities – especially researchers since those numbers will be more accurate, check the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website (as opposed to the World Health Organization) and well-known research hospitals for starters. The New York Times has created an interactive map with updated totals by country based on figures from Johns Hopkins University. Information from Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt – anyone can post information and while it’s good for a quick check, it is best to double-check anything you see on that site.
More information is available on the possible symptoms that could be indicators of COVID-19. The problem is that several diseases also have these symptoms and allergy season is starting in many parts of the country, so that will make the diagnosis even more difficult. However, here are some symptoms from the CDC and Mayo Clinic that can be indicators: loss of taste or smell, a fever over 100 degrees, extreme exhaustion, a dry cough, body aches, nasal congestion and runny nose, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, chills and shaking, and a sore throat. Patients have had some of these symptoms in varying degrees of severity, carriers have had none or very mild symptoms.
In Maryland, we have to wear masks to go out in public. I tried to order sandwiches at the deli counter of a local grocery store and when the woman couldn’t understand me, I raised my mask to speak and she got extremely panicked. Mind you, I was 6 feet away, could barely see over the counter and I wasn’t coughing or sneezing.
I think it’s good to be smart, but not panicked and to exercise the common sense God gave us. And as the saying goes, “trust, but verify.”
Kendra Miller is a writer and book editor based in Maryland.