Debunking Covid Myths

Lily Fox
May 2, 2021
National Policy

One of the most frustrating things is being a public health major during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is primarily because while we are studying COVID and how it spreads, we see other people not taking the pandemic seriously at all. We see many people not wearing their masks, some spreading false, racist conspiracy theories, and many who think it won’t happen to them. Thus, I want to dispel some COVID-19 myths and prove why you should start taking this pandemic seriously.

MYTH #1: “It won’t affect me. I’m young”

The truth is, people of all ages have been hospitalized due to this virus. In fact, between June-August 2020, people aged 20-29 accounted for 20% of confirmed cases. Another study shows that out of 3,000 adults aged 18-34 who needed hospital care, 21% ended up in the ICU, 10% went on a breathing machine, and 2.7% died. The most at risk are those who are considered “essential workers”, such as those who work in grocery stores. It’s also worth noting that more than half of the patients needing hospitalization were black or hispanic, contributing to health-related racism that plagues our country.

MYTH #2: “It has a 99% survival rate. It’s not that serious”

This is a comparison that lacks an extreme amount of context. In order to fully understand the scope of that figure, you need to have knowledge of public health and epidemiology. Since that is my major, I’ll help break it down.

Let’s assume that the entire United States population contracts COVID-19, which is 328.2 million people. If there is a 99% survival rate, that means there is a 1% mortality rate. Given that the entire United States population gets COVID-19, that would mean that about 3 million people would die of COVID-19. That’s not a small number by any means. Not to mention, according to Dr. Fauci, having a 1% mortality rate makes COVID-19 ten times deadlier than the seasonal flu.

I’ll go over this more in the next myth, but it’s also important to note that mortality is not an effective way to judge the severity of a virus on its own. In public health, researchers usually use the Disability Adjusted Life Year, or DALY, to calculate the full scope of the impact of a virus.

MYTH #3: “It’s just like the flu, I’ll get over it quickly”

Sadly, that is not the case. Some people who contract COVID-19 have symptoms that persist after their initial infection, including fatigue, shortness of breath, cough, and joint pain. However, some of the long term effects aren’t as simple as that. Organ damage can result from a COVID-19 infection. Scans of heart muscle show damage even in mild cases of COVID. Long-term damage to the lungs, specifically the alveoli, can result from COVID-19 as well. COVID-19 has even been shown to cause Guillain-Barre syndrome, a condition that causes temporary paralysis, as well as increasing the risk of Parkinson’s. COVID-19 also increases the risk of depression in patients as well as PTSD, chronic fatigue syndrome, and anxiety disorders.

Even if you think your infection was not severe, the virus and its symptoms created lasting damage to your body- including damage that you might not even realize you have until you are older.

MYTH #4: “Masks don’t actually work”

In order to debunk this myth, first I must explain why we wear masks. If you’ve ever seen a medical drama, you’ll see surgeons wearing face masks in the operating room while performing surgery. This is because the mask prevents the surgeon from accidentally infecting the patient with an illness or other infection while they are in surgery. This is also why we as a public wear masks.

Masks have been proven to work. In one experiment, droplets were stopped simply by a damp washcloth. A study done on mask mandates showed that after mask mandates were put in place, the growth percentage slowed down by 0.9 percentage points in five days and two percentage points in three weeks. In fact, masks have been shown to be effective in high risk scenarios as well. A man flew from China to Toronto with a dry cough and wore a mask the entire flight. As a result, all 25 of the people close to him tested negative. Two hair stylists in Missouri who had contact with over 140 patients wore masks and none of the patients tested positive.

“But they told us not to wear masks in the beginning!”, I hear you shout. First of all, public health, by nature, is supposed to change. As a field, it is rapid and things change all the time. It’s important to be up to date due to how quickly things change. Furthermore, the CDC noted that we did not have enough masks for the entire population at the start of the pandemic, and we were also not culturally prepared to have to wear masks.

MYTH #5: “The virus was made in a Chinese lab in order to boost China’s economy”

Aside from the anti-Asian sentiment in that comment, that’s just factually untrue. In fact, by using the virus’s genetic coding, they were able to prove that the virus was not made in a lab. Scientists looked at the molecular backbone of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and were able to deduce that the virus resembles viruses that were common in bats. If the virus was made in a lab, the virus would not resemble any virus that currently exists today.

Also, the specific way RBD proteins bind to cells shows it is not man made. When put through simulations, the RBD proteins should not be successful in binding at all. If a scientist were to make a bioweapon, they would not have chosen this virus because the simulations would not show that it is able to bind. However, the RBD protein binds well to specific cells, showing that the virus evolved past the point of technology to bind to these cells.

So what does this mean for us? This means that we as youth have a responsibility to wear our masks and help fight this pandemic. If not for other people, then for ourselves. We are not immune to COVID-19 just because of our age. We are at risk for serious health complications as a result. It is up to us as youth to be the change and help fight this pandemic once and for all.

Lily Fox

Lily grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and is a sophomore in college studying public health, specializing in epidemiology, with a minor in psychology at the University of Iowa. She plans on pursuing her MS in epidemiology after graduating, then her Ph.D. in epidemiology. She first got into politics in 2016 during the Bernie Sanders campaign. Lily follows the Marxian school of economics and socially progressive, advocating for health equity and eradication of systemic health inequality globally. Outside of school, she is a member of the Iowa City Democratic Socialists, is a member of her campus's Student Activists for Planned Parenthood, volunteers for Christine Olivo's campaign, is a member of her university's anti-imperialism club Peace by Peace, and is an active member of Delta Zeta sorority. She is most passionate about imperialism, health equity, and public health policy.