At a time when the world needs to depend on science-based facts, coronavirus myths are spreading like wildfire. These myths can be dangerous for public health.
Keeping businesses open and avoiding lockdowns depend a great deal on everyone’s commitment to personal responsibility. The seven coronavirus myths below have allowed that responsibility to slide, or not exist at all.
People believing these myths — and behaving as if they are facts — have likely led to new COVID-19 surges.
7. Since most lockdowns are over, everything must be okay now
This myth has found people reentering the world as if we’re not still in the middle of a pandemic. Summertime gatherings. Graduation and 4th of July celebrations. People have been coming back together en masse, but with many not taking responsibility for how to carefully avoid coronavirus spread.
As the number of coronavirus cases drastically ticks back up again in certain areas, we see the life-altering results of this way of thinking. The “everything is okay now” myth has sent the world in a backwards spin at lightning speed.
6. I’m way under 60, so I’m not really at risk
Recent surges of coronavirus cases have moved from the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers to the Millennials and Generation Zs. Why? Probably due in part to this myth — that younger people don’t have to worry because of their age.
Yet as the numbers of younger people testing positive for coronavirus rapidly rises, the world is learning they can be pretty hard hit too. COVID-19 is causing some lasting symptoms for 18-35 year olds. And not just a loss of smell and taste. Some of those lasting effects of coronavirus for younger people could include organ damage, blood clotting and strokes.
5. If you don’t have a fever, you don’t have coronavirus
Fever is the number one most common symptom of coronavirus, according to the CDC. But assuming everyone with COVID-19 will present with a fever is perpetuating a myth. It’s also a way of playing it very unsafe with public health.
The truth is many people who contract coronavirus are asymptomatic, with no fever but still contagious. Sometimes people with no fever are simply pre-symptomatic, with fever coming on days later. And sometimes fever just isn’t in the list of symptoms people suffer from, especially with older adults.
4. Masks aren’t necessary to stop coronavirus spread
This myth was born from ever-changing mindsets about mask wearing since COVID-19 began. Over time, it’s been debunked in areas where mask wearing is a common practice and protocols are followed closely.
Coronavirus face masks aren’t the perfect defense, but they do help stop person-to-person spread. Along with hand-washing and social distancing by at least six feet, wearing face masks is an important way to keep more lockdowns from happening worldwide. It’s so important for that goal that many mask-wearing mandates have been issued.
3. There are more cases than deaths right now, so the virus is less of a threat
Though it seems that diagnoses are up and deaths are down, it typically takes the COVID-19 virus at least a couple of weeks to cause death. Thus, death tolls will lag behind a surge of new positive tests.
Plus, it takes longer for deaths to catch up to positive tests when newer cases are with younger people. Even if a large percentage of those younger people survive the virus, over time they are infecting more older people who might not.
2. I don’t have to worry because I tested negative
This myth is a hard one to swallow, because we all want to trust every coronavirus test result. Unfortunately, mistakes and anomalies do happen. Some coronavirus false negatives are possible, making precautions are still very important.
If you tested negative for coronavirus, you should still wear a mask in public, wash your hands consistently, and stay at least six feet away from other people.
Even if your negative coronavirus test is correct today, you might contract it tomorrow. Or you could have contracted it since the test was taken.
1. If we let the virus spread, herd immunity will eventually save us all
Not only does this myth present an ethical dilemma regarding saving lives now, but one important factor makes it implausible. Our healthcare system can’t handle letting coronavirus run its course without preventative protocols.
Some intensive care units are at or near capacity. Personal protective equipment supplies for frontline workers are limited. Healthcare workers are already at high risk and overworked. All of these people and healthcare facilities are also needed for other serious health conditions and surgeries.
A recent study of coronavirus in Spain also points to herd immunity being difficult for the world population to achieve. The study concluded that because only about 5% of those monitored developed coronavirus antibodies, herd immunity to COVID-19 might not even be possible.
Personal responsibility is an alternative that could help control the spread of coronavirus until hopefully a vaccine is ready and widely available.Related: Social Distancing Mistakes That Put You at Risk for Coronavirus