7 Reasons Why Coronavirus Is Not a Hoax
This past week, numerous media outlets reported on a 30-year-old man in Texas who died from COVID-19 shortly after apologizing for believing the virus was a hoax. He's not alone in that belief. Hoax-believers, virus-deniers, and conspiracy theorists abound right now. And, while it is frustrating for infectious disease specialists and public health experts like myself to hear people denying the science in this way, it is also frankly understandable. How can any of us wrap our heads around the overwhelming numbers—nearly 3.5 million US cases and more than 130,000 deaths? Especially when the "enemy" is invisible? And we are the vectors of disease? And many of us are burned out after months in lockdown, homeschooling our kids?
It may be easier, and perhaps comforting to some, to deny it all and chalk it up to paranoia and politicized hype…and go back to our lives. But that would be a grave mistake because, when people don't believe that the COVID pandemic is real, they also will not practice the behaviors to prevent it, like wearing masks, social distancing, staying home when sick, practicing good hand hygiene, and testing.
So where can we find the "proof" that COVID-19 is a real disease, affecting real people—often with devastating consequences? Keep reading.
Tests don't "create" cases, viruses create cases. Tests just enable us to know who is infected so that they can be cared for and isolated before they infect someone else.
Just Ask Hospitals
Or people who work in them. In some areas of the country, hospitals are overwhelmed. The sheer volume of cases without resources to properly care for them means that healthcare providers are often spread thin. Burnout is high and some physicians have sadly committed suicide as a result, including one of my former colleagues.
Just Ask Patients
Or people who have tried to go to a hospital and have been turned away for lack of space. As hospitals run out of spacing and staff, some people who need care will be unable to get it. And others who actually secure a bed for admission will be confined to hallways, conference rooms, and other makeshift spaces. From the patient perspective, that experience can be overwhelming and frightening.
Just Asked the Loved Ones of the 130,000 People Who Have Died
While there is a wide range of experiences with this virus, a small proportion of those who are infected with it will die, especially those who are older and have underlying health conditions. They often die in ICUs, on ventilators, with few medications available to treat them, and alone because visitors are restricted. The number of deaths is overwhelming, but each one of those deaths needs to be counted and acknowledged.
Ask People With Lived Experiences
As with so many infectious diseases and health conditions, people of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, especially people who live in urban and lower income neighborhoods. If you don't know someone who has been personally affected or infected by COVID-19, recognize that is a luxury that not everyone can afford.
Do Your Homework
Look to news outlets that report on the science, instead of gorging on social media where conspiracy theories and other rumors abound. Or if you're tired of hearing scientists and public health experts talking about these issues, read the science yourself! Preprints of submitted (but not yet vetted) articles are publicly available on medrxiv and the National Library of Medicine maintains an amazing database of information.
The Enemy is Not Really Invisible
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been isolated many times in the lab, its DNA sequenced, and its presence demonstrated in droplets and on contaminated surfaces.
Even if you don't buy into the pandemic idea, are tired of the messaging, or are overwhelmed, please do the right thing for your own health and for the health of others by social distancing and wearing a mask. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.
Jaimie Meyer, MD is a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.