As the world passes the 6 month mark since the WHO first declared the 2019 novel Coronavirus a “public health emergency of international concern,” one of the chief impediments to widespread support for public health measures has been online misinformation. Social media has been a hotbed for COVID-19 conspiracy theories and falsehoods. Many experts attribute online misinformation as being a factor in the resistance to mask wearing, quarantine measures, and the acceptance of other advice from public health officials. Misinformation, such as the conspiracy-laden film, “Plandemic,” has been widely circulated online.
With this in mind, Dr. Oehler, IDPodcast’s Editor-in-Chief, initially recorded a “Coronavirus myths” talk in May addressing some of the early social media misperceptions about coronavirus. Dr. Oehler’s lecture addressed false social media assertions for such myths as the CDC’s reporting of death numbers, whether the Coronavirus outbeak was “predicted” by the Farmer’s Almanac, whether Coronavirus can be acquired from mail, food, or pets, and did the SARS CoV-2 virus originate from a Chinese scientific lab. The talk was a hit, garnering more than a thousand views on YouTube.
But as the pandemic progressed well into the summer, combined with social justice protests and spikes of new cases in Florida and other southern states, Dr. Oehler decided that a second lecture was in order. The new lecture addresses issues related to mask wearing, testing, the financial health of hospitals, the effect of protesters on Coronavirus cases in affected communities, and whether we are likely to have a COVID-19 vaccine by early next year.
“Topics of science and medicine have gotten so political in our current climate, especially with the fact that we are in an election year,” Dr. Oehler said. “I looked at some claims put forth by political leaders, whether or not they were well received by the public, with the perspective of asking, ‘what does the science say?’ What I found, sadly, is that the medical experts’ and public health officials’s advice has often been repeatedly sidelined in favor of political expediency, and not necessarily by just one political party. ‘Should we go back to stay-at-home orders or is our testing adequate, for instance?’ These are questions best answered with science rather than politics.”
Dr. Oehler concludes, “When the pandemic ends, and we as a global community can reflect, and hopefully learn from this worldwide outbreak, I think we will sadly see that from China to Europe to America, public health expert science-based guidance was frequently sidelined in favor of other priorities–minimizing a serious public health problem to avoid criticism, preventing economic injury to a state or community, or politicizing aspects of the coronavirus response to preserve a constituency. And the net affect was only to make things worse.”
Dr. Oehler’s Coronavirus Myths talks can be found here:
Coronavirus Myths: Separating fact from Fiction Recorded 5/6/2020
More Coronavirus Myths (And Misperceptions) Recorded 7/22/2020
VuMedi, an online information resource for clinicians, has recently partnered with IDPodcasts to offer segments from Dr. Oehler’s most recent Coronavirus Myths podcast on its platform. The segment on “mask myths” has garnered in excess of 10,000 views as of August 11. All six of the posts can be found here:
Registration with the VuMedi site is free but is required to view their content.