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A Pandemic of Misinformation

The wealth of information available about COVID-19 can be both a blessing and a curse. While it is important to have educational resources, quality should always be prioritized over quantity. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case in recent months. Many have become oversaturated with COVID-19 information, and much of the information they are receiving is unreliable.

Near-universal access to the Internet and social media only serves to exacerbate this problem. When anyone can create and share online content, it makes it much easier for false information to circulate quickly. Because the goal of social media is to obtain as much engagement (likes, comments, and shares) as possible, people will often post incorrect or false information without fact-checking first.

This phenomenon was demonstrated in a recent study in which one group of participants was asked whether they would share an article, while another group was asked if they believed the article was accurate. The results showed that there were significantly more people who would share the information than there were people who believed the information was true, demonstrating that many of those sharing it were probably not confident in the article’s accuracy.

There is a variety of misinformation being circulated about the COVID-19 pandemic. Some claim the pandemic doesn’t exist at all, while others offer miracle cures that aren’t backed by science. Some will even compare the state of the pandemic in various countries, stating that because one nation with certain policies isn’t in lockdown or doesn’t have high case numbers, the same should hold true here. This is usually a false equivalency, as the timing of the pandemic differs greatly in different parts of the world and countries’ responses have varied greatly.

While some misinformation is easy to spot, some pandemic deniers can be deceptively convincing. Many people who don’t believe the science surrounding COVID-19 will pick and choose facts and statistics which, on the surface, seem to support their ideologies, making their viewpoints seem more credible.

Critical Thinking

The good news is that all of these types of inaccurate information can be combated with the same strategies. Simply taking a moment to think critically before sharing an article can make a difference. After reading something that seems unbelievable, take a moment to do some research. Usually, it is fairly easy to determine whether the views posited by an article are fact or fiction. 

Checking sources is another great way to examine potential accuracy. Most scientific sources require peer-reviewing prior to being published, making them significantly more reliable than other articles. If a given article wasn’t written by a scientific source, have they listed where they found their information? Are those sources reliable? Doing this type of research is a great place to start if an article seems like it may not be accurate.

A Helping Hand

Your doctor is an important resource when it comes to determining the accuracy of COVID-19 information. If the self-research tips listed above don’t clearly identify whether or not an article is accurate, you can always ask a healthcare professional for advice on the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. One of the top preventative measures that most doctors will recommend is frequent screening. Performing a self-evaluation prior to entering a public space like the school or the office can help to significantly reduce the spread of the virus. If symptoms are present, it is recommended that the patient is tested for COVID-19 by a healthcare professional.

The COVID Pre-Check App facilitates COVID-19 testing with its Physician Interface, which allows doctors to update patients’ COVID-19 test results through a secure portal. They can assign any of the following statuses: acute infection, no infection, safe to return to work, or high-risk. This makes the process of obtaining test results easier and helps employees who receive negative results return to work more quickly. If you don’t have a family doctor, the COVID Pre-Check App can also help you find a physician who can assist you using telemedicine.

While the risk of misinformation can be intimidating, there are many reliable experts out there who are publishing accurate information about the pandemic. A little research and critical thinking will make it easier to determine what is true, and a doctor can act as a guide — as well as provide fast and reliable test results.