Common Misconceptions About COVID-19, Debunked

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the globe, information—accurate and otherwise—is being disseminated just as quickly. And this “infodemic” has been facilitated through social media, making information more accessible but also harder to discern. As you sift through masses of information to make informed decisions during this crisis, here are some common misconceptions (and what we do know) about COVID-19.

Misconception #1: COVID-19 is less deadly than the seasonal flu.
The truth: As of the end of June, the case-fatality rate for COVID-19 was roughly 50 times greater than seasonal influenza. Based on statistics from Johns Hopkins on June 28, the case-fatality rate for COVID-19 is about 5.0%. Data estimates from the CDC show the case-fatality rate of the flu to be about 0.1%. So far, there have been about 125,000 reported deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 compared to the CDC’s estimated 24,000 to 65,000 deaths caused by the flu for the 2019-2020 winter flu season.

Misconception #2: COVID-19 only impacts the elderly.
The truth: An early report from China indicated that only 10.2% of COVID-19 cases occurred in people under the age of thirty, but new data has redefined who’s vulnerable. While older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions are more vulnerable to contract severe symptoms, the CDC stated in a report that “severe illness leading to hospitalization, including ICU admission and death, can occur in adults of any age with COVID-19.” For example, in the state of Ohio, nearly 22.6% of cases have been confirmed in people ages 0-29 and more than half of the cases were from people under the age of fifty (as of 6/28/2020). 

Misconception #3: The U.S. is entering a “second wave” of COVID-19 cases.
The truth: According to NPR, we’re technically still in the first wave—although that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. The U.S. peaked on April 10 with 31,000 average new daily cases, and by mid-May dropped to around 22,000 on average, but this number has roughly stayed the same. Scientists also warn that a true second wave could come in the fall.

Misconception #4: Compared to other countries, the U.S. is flattening the curve.
The truth: The pandemic will officially end when every country brings the curve of their daily cases down to zero. The U.S. still remains a global hotspot for COVID-19; here is how the U.S. compares:


Country comparison of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases. Image courtesy of Our World in Data.

Misconception #5: Most states are reopening, so it’s safe to resume a normal life.
The truth: Many states are reopening after stay-at-home orders are being lifted, yet new cases are rising in 33 states (as of 6/28/2020). Some states, like Texas, have even halted further re-openings amidst steep rises in the number of cases.

Misconception #6: Standing six feet apart from others will prevent contracting COVID-19.
The truth: Six feet is the average distance droplets from a cough or sneeze will travel before settling to the ground. New research has shown that droplets can travel further than 6 feet, so this distance may not be far away enough for social distancing. Also, wind may carry the virus farther. Droplets have been found to travel 18 feet from just a slight breeze.

Misconception #7: Wearing a mask for extended periods of time leads to carbon dioxide (CO2) intoxication. 
The truth: Face masks, and whether they should be mandated in public, continue to cause controversy nationwide. But scientific research continues to show that wearing a mask helps keep yourself and others safe. The WHO also makes clear that wearing a mask is not dangerous: “The prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable. However, it does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency.” Face masks are a crucial safeguard because current research maintains that the main risk of catching COVID-19 comes from breathing in or making contact with droplets propelled into the air by people coughing, sneezing, talking, laughing, etc.

*Information updated as of 6/28/2020. While we are reviewing and cross-referencing various sources to get timely and relevant answers to important questions during this crisis, new information and studies come out almost every day and much remains unknown regarding COVID-19. Midstory encourages everyone to follow all public health and safety protocols and to exercise extreme caution.

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