Check Your Sources Because Fake News About The Coronavirus Is Everywhere
Are younger adults and children seriously at risk of dying from the coronavirus? Does it actually primarily affect the elderly population, those with underlying health conditions, and the immuno-compromised? All these are valid questions, but unfortunately finding truth in the midst of fake news is harder than it should be.
In a world that has been turned upside-down in light of the tragic COVID-19, it’s difficult to find solace, much less reliability in the news. With politically-charged agendas and reports that just make you feel like you’re in an episode of the Twilight Zone, finding a reputable news source in the chaos is surprisingly challenging.
First, Let’s Get Some Stats Straight (Because We All Love Numbers)
According to researchers in London, there is a clear link between age and the chances of being hospitalized for COVID-19:
Fewer than 5% of those under 50 need to be hospitalized because of their symptoms, but this rises to 24% for 70 to 79-year-olds.
The older population is the main target for succumbing to the disease, with a fatality rate of 2.7-10% for ages 65 and older.
Younger people are not necessarily exempt from being severely affected by the disease, with a 0-0.2% fatality rate for those aged 0-44, according to the CDC, but the chances of death significantly decrease in this demographic.
Older adults, particularly those with serious underlying health conditions, are at higher risk for severe COVID-19–associated illness and death than are younger persons.
Now, on to the fake news…
“Los Angeles Teen Dies from Contracting COVID-19”
On March 26, CNN reported that a 17-year-old teen’s death was linked to the coronavirus, but needed further “investigation” for a “complex” case.
The boy was admitted to an emergency room for respiratory issues, and his death was initially ruled as being caused by COVID-19, but the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health later recanted, saying the case “needs more review” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In a world that has been turned upside-down in light of the tragic COVID-19, it’s difficult to find solace, much less reliability in the news.
Later that week, Barbara Ferrer, the county public-health director, removed the teen from the death toll and said there were "extenuating circumstances that pointed to an alternative diagnosis.”
Governor Gavin Newsom later rebuked the county for the faulty diagnosis.
“Connecticut Governor Says 7-Week-Old Infant Dies from COVID-19”
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont revealed that an infant’s death was tied to coronavirus during a press release, but autopsy reports have not verified the claim.
According to Lamont’s administration, the discrepancy in information is because “the Department of Public Health and the Medical Examiner keep different sets of data and this is because their offices are focused on very different objectives.”
According to British researchers and the American CDC, there is a clear link between age and the chances of being hospitalized for COVID-19.
Why the difference in “objectives”? State epidemiologist Matthew Cartter says that the Department of Public Health records all positive cases of COVID-19 before and after a person’s death, but this is not the same as saying the virus caused a death.
The tragic fatality of an infant can take weeks for an autopsy report to return the cause of death. The Connecticut newborn was tested for COVID-19 after death, so the death can’t automatically be linked to the virus.
“CBS Airs Coverage of an Over-Run New York Hospital”
Images of an over-run and frantic hospital staff in New York City graced CBS news in late March — except that it wasn’t actually in NYC. It was from Italy’s most affected city, Bergamo.
Footage taken from Sky News of Italian patients and dated March 19 was inserted in a CBS report nearly a week later. The footage was followed by a worried Governor Cuomo pleading with the federal government to send more ventilators to the 30,000 patients in the New York City metro area.
With politically-charged agendas and reports on news outlets, finding a reputable news source in the chaos is surprisingly challenging.
It took several days for the footage to be removed after CBS admitted the editing mistake. A CBS News spokesperson told Fox News that they “took immediate steps to remove it from all platforms and shows.”
One thing’s for sure, it didn’t help viewers feel any more confident in the accuracy of journalism today, but instead, it only brought more fright to onlookers.
While there are many valid and authentic reports being published during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a critical time to double (and triple) check your news sources. Being overloaded by stress is already a thing — you don’t need to add fake news to your daily diet.