The Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a highly contagious respiratory virus that has infected many, claimed the lives of several, instilled panic and fear, and caused the entire United States to go into quarantine, or as many call it “Social Distancing.” And while Americans across the country have spent countless hours glued to their televisions, computers, and phones educating themselves on the virus and waiting for updates, it has also caused a widespread of misinformation about the origin, who is more susceptible, ways to prevent it, and whether or not African Americans are at risk.
When looking at where COVID-19 originated, there has been a great debate. Rumors starting from the virus beginning in animals and food that has been sent from China to a woman contracting the virus from eating bat soup, to bats being the leading carriers of Coronavirus has left many people perplexed. Dominique Murray, FNP at Howard Brown Health Center, located in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, said, “While it is true that the virus can be found in animals such as camels, cattle, cats, and bats, people need to understand that there are different types of Coronaviruses. There are MERS and SARS, both of which we have experienced in the past; however, it hasn’t affected humans the way as COVID-19.” She also said, “The main thing that I have heard about the origins of COVID-19 is that there is a link between bats and the Chinese food that we eat, and that’s nonexistent. The Coronavirus does live in bats, but they are rare in China.”
Conspiracies about the relationship between China and the United States have also led people to form theories about the origin of Coronavirus. Dominique said, “There’s no evidence that China is weaponizing the virus in the form of a terrorist attack on America. People have even gone to great lengths to avoid Chinese people out of fear that the virus can be transmitted from them. Further stigmatizing an entire group of individuals.”
Articles perpetuating the claim that African Americans are not at risk for contracting COVID-19 have also led many to believe that they are immune from the virus. “As far as the melanin in our skin, there is no evidence to support that claim. It is affecting everyone regardless of race, age, and gender,” said Dominique.
Ayo Bodunde, RN, BSN at Chicago’s UIHealth, said, “One misconception I have heard and seen first-hand is that hand sanitizer is just as effective as soap and water. Although hand sanitizer is convenient, when soap and water are available, use it. Not only does soap and water destroy the outer layer of both bacteria and viruses, but it also washes the oil away that carries them. Hand sanitizer is less effective at killing certain microbes, and your hands can still be soiled.” When asked about children and their chances of getting the virus, Ayo said, “Another misconception I have heard is that children can’t get the virus. The mortality rate for children is much lower than adults with the virus. However, children with compromised immune systems or other co-morbidities place them at a higher risk than their healthy counterparts. What makes this virus serious is that healthy individuals can still infect those they encounter because they are asymptomatic. The onsets of symptoms vary from person to person.” Ayo later said, “The best advice I could give would be to behave as though you are a carrier of this virus and practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, keep your hands away from your face, and to be creative and mindful during this time.”
As a form of prevention, people have resorted to wearing surgical masks, mainly the N95 masks, in hopes that it will keep them safe. “The CDC and World Health Organization are going back and forth every day trying to figure out whether the Coronavirus is airborne or in the form of droplets. According to healthcare providers, you don’t need the N95 mask if it’s just droplets. However, if it is airborne, similar to Tuberculosis, then you would need the N95 mask”, Dominique said. She then followed up with, “In addition to washing your hands, other ways to prevent the virus from spreading is to cough into your elbow, which prevents particles from coming out into the air. Staying away from people that are sick and self-quarantining for 14 days when coming in contact with someone who has Coronavirus is also advised. And while it is good to take a multivitamin every day for your overall health, there is no research to support the claim that supplements will protect you from COVID-19.”
The myth that Coronavirus cannot survive in heat has also caused many to not only eagerly anticipate the arrival of warmer temperatures, but take drastic measures such as inhaling steam from a pot of boiling water, creating a sauna in their bathrooms, taking scalding showers, and even using a blow dryer to blow hot air into their nostrils to kill the virus and any symptoms associated with it. “A lot of people are hoping that when summertime rolls around, we will begin to see these cases magically disappear. And yes, that does happen with the flu, especially in the Southwestern region of the country, but because there are so many differences between influenza and COVID-19, that may not necessarily be the case”, says Rachel Bachar, Nurses Manager at Los Angeles’ LGBTQ Center.
For more on COVID-19 and to help prevent the spread of further misinformation, all have advised people to visit The Center for Disease Control, The World Health Organization, and The Department of Public Health.
Racquel Coral, Contributing Writer