Let’s Have Some Responsible Reporting on COVID-19 Coronavirus: Less Hype, More Facts

In America, we have had some really bad flu seasons: deadly flu seasons. Although it’s more nuanced and scientific, for the average layperson, COVID-19 can be likened to a different strain of the flu; only, your flu shot won’t work on it. So, stay away from sick people, wash your hands, don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth … and we all know the rest. Public service Announcements have been training us on safe practices to avoid illness for decades. For CoVID-19, it’s that same sound advice.

But, what’s up with all the closings? With over 50,000 flu deaths every year, have we had our schools closed down, towns cordoned off, and companies told to make allowances for employees missing work? With the last few deadly virus epidemics and pandemics, did we have massive cancellations of sporting events, concerts, parades, and other public gatherings? Not really. Though there have been some spot closures from time to time.

So, why such different procedures for this new coronavirus, COVID-19? Is it simply because this virus is new? Is this legitimate national emergency being painted in darker colors for political or social reasons or could it be for the sheer drama of it all? Are we being scared into believing this viral spread is fundamentally different than the spread of other viral infections? Viruses spread … regardless of their name. And we have had such viruses in the past. So, what’s really going on here?

Is the media purposely trying to cause a panic over this latest coronavirus? Do you notice reports multiple times per day telling us of the new cases and death tolls? Using emphatic, emotion-laden words and tones to make 5 deaths feel like 50,000 and 1,200 cases seem like 12 million? Telling us about its rapid spread? Telling us about the people quarantined and those moving about spreading the virus seemingly without common sense? And all the while hyper-criticizing EVERYTHING our leaders do to get ahead of this thing. Shame on them.

Of course, this is to be expected. This is news … high interest, high emotion and with a human element. It’s News Story 101. But, my questions are: why aren’t they eagerly reporting the tens of thousands of cases where people recovered from Coronavirus? Why aren’t they reporting that the mortality rate is currently around 1% with the bulk of those people over 60 years old with medical conditions exacerbated by the virus? Why are they making it like we are all going to get the virus and die? Why are they not responsibly reporting ALL the facts about this epidemic?

Where are all the human interest stories from people who recovered from COVID-19? What is it like to have the virus? How long are people bedridden? I’d certainly like to know those kinds of practical things. Where are these stories? Are they hidden beneath a barrage of apocalyptic rantings filled with speculation and fear-mongering or are they just not there at all? 

It seems that good news should be shouted from the rooftops – or atleast in full rotation by all the news organizations. Facts like: COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be infecting many children, teens,and 20-somethings; around 99% of those contracting the disease recover; the number of new cases and deaths in China are declining; and our country’s quick and decisive action at the start of the epidemic probably saved many lives here. Good news is news too, so why not report it?

Yes, this virus can be deadly and as such, should be regarded with solemnity and care. Yet, over-sensationalizing or selectively reporting information is simply irresponsible reporting. Too many panic-inducing stories without the balancing effect of good news and positive progress forward can lead to a fearful public making runs on grocery stores and hoarding supplies. We’ve all heard stories of supplies going bad or expiring unused in the hands of overzealous people whose actions can hinder the care of the truly sick members of our society who are in legitimate need.

You may be thinking: with such a high recovery rate, what is all the drama about? The hyped up, doom and gloom media reporting notwithstanding, there are a few legitimate things that can make this epidemic challenging, though not invincible:

  1. It is highly contagious with a long incubation period, making it certain that thousands more cases will emerge.
  2. With so many people contracting the virus at the same time, health systems will be taxed and challenged to keep up with the demand for care and supplies.
  3. With the virus being a new strain, we don’t yet have built up immunities against it. And with no vaccine to combat it, each person will have to rely on their own body’s immune system to fight it off and recover.

In simple terms, COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease) is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2. It is another in a line of flu-like viruses that strike humanity annually during flu season, and irregularly throughout recent history. Like the flu, this virus attacks our lung tissue and airways and can progress to bronchitis, pneumonia and even death to those with existing medical conditions and compromised immune systems.

To put this recent pandemic in perspective, over 1 BILLION people worldwide contract the flu EVERY YEAR, with no less than 250,000 and up to 600,000 of those people dying as a result. In the United States, last year alone, an estimated 42 million people had the flu, with 647,000 hospitalized and 61,200 cases resulting in deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Turn your attention to COVID-19 with over 100,000 cases, and approaching 5000 deaths worldwide, and counting. Over 80% of those cases and fatalities are in China, the launching pad of the epidemic; though new cases in China are now declining. For the rest of the world, we can expect the virus to spread; yet, why aren’t we being assured by the media that our country is aggressively addressing this virus with the best medical minds, the latest data, and with the health of the American people as a priority?

Does our media want to scare everyone and cause widespread panic, anxiety, and unrest? Do they want to negatively impact our economy, our businesses and our jobs? If so, how does that help anyone? What is the benefit of doing that? Does the media have the best interest of the American people in mind?

We’ve been through other epidemics, pandemics, and deadly flu seasons. We’ve endured Zeka, Swine Flu/H1N1, Avian Flu, West Nile Virus, and more. We’ll get through this one, too. Let’s all come together and each do our part to minimize the spread of this new virus by heeding the warnings of our leaders and using safe health practices.

Consider the most vulnerable among us and help your neighbor … but please, first wash your hands!

#NotAfraidToThink          #TeamworkMakesTheDreamWork       #NoCOVID-19

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