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Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction

March 20, 2020 - Katie McCallum

There's a lot of information out there about coronavirus (COVID-19), particularly on social media. And, unfortunately, where there are large amounts of information, misinformation inevitably follows.

We're here to help you separate what's fact from what's fiction. Below, we use facts to bust eight common misconceptions about the new coronavirus.

Misconception #1: Avoiding hospitals and emergency rooms reduces my risk of catching the virus

Why it's fiction: Even during a pandemic, an emergency is still an emergency. If you're experiencing symptoms that require immediate medical attention, do not avoid calling 911 or heading straight to your local emergency room because you're worried about catching COVID-19.

Know that emergency rooms are taking every precaution to keep you safe, including immediately separating those suspected to be infected with coronavirus from other patients.

Misconception #2: Young adults don't have to worry about coronavirus

Why it's fiction: Anyone exposed to the new coronavirus can become infected with it — no matter what age. While older adults and people with chronic health conditions have a greater chance of developing very serious symptoms, healthy young adults are also at risk for being hospitalized or even placed in the ICU due to COVID-19-related complications. This means everyone should heed the advice from public health officials to practice social distancing, as well as self-quarantining if you become ill.

Misconception #3: Everyone should wear a surgical face mask

Why it's fiction: The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that surgical face masks only be worn by:

  • Healthcare workers
  • People with COVID-19 symptoms (namely cough and fever)
  • People caring for those who are ill and experiencing symptoms.

 

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does recommend that healthy people wear cloth face coverings while in a public setting in which social distancing is hard to maintain, such as a grocery store, especially if you live in an area with significant community spread of COVID-19. Keep in mind, cloth face coverings are not the same as surgical masks or N-95 respirators — which are critical supplies that must be reserved for healthcare workers.

Misconception #4: Coronavirus can be transmitted through the mail

Why it's fiction: Experts are still learning how the new coronavirus spreads, but it's believed that the virus primarily spreads from person-to-person through infectious respiratory droplets. The WHO reports that the likelihood of catching the virus from a package that has been moved and exposed to various elements (including temperature and other conditions) is low. In addition, there are other more common surfaces and items that are likelier places for germs to hide.

Misconception #5: Pets can spread the new coronavirus

Why it's fiction: While it's suspected that the new coronavirus emerged from animals, the exact source of this virus is still unknown. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there's currently no evidence that we should be concerned about our pets spreading COVID-19.

Misconception #6: Heat can kill coronavirus

Why it's fiction: Drying your hands using a hand dryer and taking a hot bath or shower are not effective ways to prevent infection with the new coronavirus. It's also still unknown whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself from getting COVID-19 is to frequently wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer (that's at least 60% alcohol).

Misconception #7: Thermal scanners can detect coronavirus

Why it's fiction: While thermal scanners can help detect people who have a fever — a symptom of COVID-19 — they cannot determine whether a fever is due to COVID-19. In addition, it can take from two to 10 days for people to show symptoms of COVID-19. This means that thermal scanners can't detect people who are sick, but aren't yet showing a fever.

Misconception #8: Rinsing your nose with saline helps prevent infection

Why it's fiction: Some evidence suggests that regular saline nose rinses can help reduce the duration of a common cold, but there's currently no evidence that it can protect you from developing a respiratory infection — including COVID-19. To keep yourself and those around you healthy, we recommend understanding your role in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

 

Concerned you may have COVID-19?

  • If you're experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you can speak to a Virtual Urgent Care provider 24/7. The provider will help you determine if testing is needed and advise you on where you should go.

 

This article was updated on May 29, 2020 to reflect the current state of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.