Is Mass Ignorance Spreading Faster Than COVID-19?

"Stay home, stay safe" is falling on many deaf ears.

Posted Apr 20, 2020

Photo by Free To Use Sounds On Unsplash
'Stay home, stay safe' is becoming a hard sell.
Source: Photo by Free To Use Sounds On Unsplash

The lack of understanding and preparedness for COVID-19 plus the fast-spreading nature of the virus has contributed to the exponential surge of cases worldwide, leading to a global pandemic of earth-shattering proportions.

Yet despite the outcry from many governors and senators for citizens to continue self-distancing and quarantining, many are not buying stay-at-home orders. Mounting anger and frustration with the lockdown and no end in sight, throngs of protesters—biting at the bit to get back to work—are flocking to state capitols, claiming politicians are overreaching in their restrictions and trampling on their civil liberties and the right to work. Many of the demonstrators, wielding signs that read, "Liberate Us" and "Give Me Liberty Or Give Me Death," refuse to wear masks or abide by the six-foot social distancing regulation.

Beaches are re-opening, churchgoers continue to congregate—determined not to forfeit their right to assemble and worship—and a resurgence of social gatherings has been reported at municipal parks and golf greens. Conspiracy theories abound, claiming governments are gaslighting citizens—feeding them massive lies about the pandemic. Conspiracy theorists insist the lockdown will collapse financial organizations and that corrupt politicians, the World Health Organization (WHO), and savvy financiers will gain an economic monopoly and power to take over the world. And security for Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has been beefed up due to death threats.

While a recent study by Harvard researchers report that social distancing might remain in effect until 2022, their message is falling on deaf ears. Hardliner religious leaders argue that scientists, government officials, and the WHO don’t believe in God and are determined to usurp their God-given rights to assemble and worship.

Will the impatience, frustration, and refusal to heed scientists and government leaders create a second wave of the pandemic and put the nation at greater risk? If you believe the Harvard researchers and an alarming new study reported by eMediHealth, an expert-reviewed health resource, the answer could be yes. Pollfish, a market research platform, collected data between April 6 and April 14, 2020, from 5,000 adult residents of the US regarding general views of the COVID-19 threat, measures taken, and precautionary practices. Here are the major findings:

Reliable Data

Some 71 percent of the respondents rely on news outlets as their most trusted source to keep abreast of the pandemic and 50 percent turn to social media while only 43 percent rely on data from credible health organizations such as WHO or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Facts: With the constant barrage of information, it can be difficult to tell facts from hearsay or misinformation. In an age of ubiquitous social media, unverified information can mislead scores of people, sending them in the wrong direction and creating adverse repercussions and mismanagement of the pandemic.

Prevention and Treatment

Although 85 percent give precedence to frequent handwashing with soap, as high as 40 percent of respondents believe home remedies can protect against the coronavirus. A total of 20 percent said they believe the flu is more dangerous than COVID-19, and 26 percent overestimate the scope of antibiotics, thinking these drugs can eliminate the infection.

Facts: While COVID-19 and the flu are both viral infections that primarily affect the respiratory system, many people underestimate the severity of the coronavirus (which is more contagious and dangerous than the flu) and brush it off as similar to the regular flu. There is no specific proven treatment for COVID-19 except proper home care to alleviate the symptoms. But there are hardly any medical interventions that eliminate the virus from your system. The lack of treatment for the virus has prompted some people to try various alternative remedies without any credible proof about their efficacy.

Stress Level

Nearly 39 percent of the respondents said they feel extremely tense in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, whereas 34 percent reported normal stress levels. Almost a quarter of the respondents said they do not take a lot of stress, whereas the remaining 3 percent claim they are not disturbed at all.

Facts: The coronavirus is not only an imminent threat to physical well-being, but it has adversely affected the mental and emotional health of people, some of whom are more adept at handling stress than others. But that does not reduce the psychological blowback of the outbreak.

Transmission

About 35 percent said they believe they could contract the coronavirus from a pet’s skin and fur.

Facts: Animals have tested positive for COVID-19, and it is known that the coronavirus can survive on the skin or fur of animals. Currently, however, there is very little evidence that the virus can be transferred from animals to humans via physical contact.

Threat level

Nearly half of the respondents estimate that COVID-19 would have catastrophic consequences for the world, whereas most of the remaining half also view it as a major threat but just not as extreme. A paltry 3 percent think of it as a minor threat, whereas 2 percent consider it is not a threat at all.

Facts: A little fear is a good thing, especially since we know so little about the virus. And no country or person is immune from this rapidly escalating health crisis. The struggle to understand COVID-19 is still in its initial stages, and it is safe to say that it will continue to spread indefinitely.

Duration of the Pandemic

When asked how long the pandemic will last, respondents gave a split verdict. Around 38 percent estimate the current crisis to persist for a few more months, and an equal number believe it will continue longer and stretch out for more than the next six months.

Facts: It is expected that the threat of infection will remain prevalent until a vaccine is discovered—a matter of a year or more. Some scientists believe the virus is here to stay and that it could become a recurrent seasonal ordeal like the flu.

Fact Versus Fiction

As experts uncover more information about COVID-19, hopefully facts will eventually reign supreme over fears and misinformation. Meanwhile, it’s safe to say that the healthiest course of action is to rely on credible, unbiased, and objective sources such as scientists, medical personnel, and organizations with specialists who have devoted their careers to studying and disseminating information on infectious diseases.

Good news comes from a recent poll showing that a majority (58 percent) of citizens are concerned about moving too quickly to loosen restrictions and that the health and safety of the American people are at stake. From everything we know to date, until more information and treatment are available, scientists insist that the motto of “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” is the message to heed on the path forward.

References

Killler, SM, et al. (2020). Projecting the transmission dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 through the postpandemic period. Science, 14, 1-18. DOI: 10.1126/science.abb5793.

Patel, UK (2020). How are people responding to COVID-19: A survey. eMediHealth, April 17.