To a normal citizen, the scientific method of trial, error, and repeat can be overwhelming. To some, it might be easier to reject new information that becomes available. The COVID-19 pandemic has inevitably forced the American public to confront the scientific process. Recently, The United States reached a new peak in coronavirus cases during July. Caseloads were exacerbated early reopenings in the sunnier states – Arizona, Florida, and Texas. In times like these, it’s important more than ever to debunk some of the commonly spread myths about COVID-19.
To recap, public health agencies have constantly shifted course with their recommendations to stay safe, explaining why many are confused about the proper procedure to stay safe. National guidance has differed from state and local guidance consistently. Early in March the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised Americans against wearing a mask unless they are ill. However, now, the scientific data shows that wearing a mask in public can help prevent community transmission of the virus. Additionally, the CDC recommendation is to wear masks when you cannot stay six feet apart from others in a public setting.
The early days of the pandemic were outlined with hopes that the warmer weather would slow the coronavirus. Genetic material, like DNA or RNA, can indeed be damaged by the sun’s UV rays, yet the multiple heatwaves nationwide have failed to stop the spread of the virus. The logic behind it all is that extremely high temperatures do cause proteins to unfold and lose their function, but such temperatures would also damage human cells and proteins, thereby debunking the myth that heat can kill the virus.
Another commonly spread rumor is centered around the initial cluster of SARS-CoV-2 cases that was linked to a live seafood market in Wuhan. As the virus ravaged much of the world, speculation quickly shifted to whether the virus was genetically engineered in a lab. Science points to the notion that it is more likely the virus was of zoonotic origin (i.e was transmitted from animals to humans). As animals became domesticated, zoonotic diseases became more prevalent. According to the World Health Organization, at least 60% of all human diseases come from animals. Coronaviruses are notably common in bats and pangolins. Researchers believe the coronavirus was transferred from a bat to an intermediate before infecting the first human.
Nevertheless, keeping in mind the facts and science of the COVID-19 pandemic, one should keep in mind some key facts. The most effective, preventative measure against the coronavirus is to wear a mask. People mistakenly claim that wearing a mask can lead to breathing difficulties or health problems, but this is simply not the case. Masks are designed with breathing in mind, as medical professionals wear them all day. If your mask is the correct size, it should have sufficient airflow. Cloth masks are recommended for ordinary people so surgical masks and N95 respirators can be reserved for doctors and nurses. The American Medical Association recommends exceptions for people with breathing difficulties, children under two, and those who cannot remove their mask.
Science was never meant to be set in stone. Its purpose is to inform and find the truth according to data. Accepting new information in times like these will only help us combat the virus. The spread of misinformation is just as dangerous as the virus itself. Even as we stay apart in these difficult times, we can come together by understanding that as science changes, we can change our behavior with it.