COVID-19 Myths vs. Science
With all the news about COVID-19, it can be hard to figure out what’s based in science and what’s not. As a leading health care provider in West Central Florida, we’re here to help separate the myth from the science.
MYTH: Masks Don’t Work
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised healthy Americans not to wear masks in public. But by April, the federal agency had made an about face on its face mask guidelines and recommended that everyone wear face masks in public when social distancing isn’t possible.
The importance of face masks have remained a confusing topic for some, perhaps due to the inconsistent guidelines—it wasn’t until June that the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its own guidelines to align with the CDC’s. All this has given fuel to the unfortunate myth that masks don’t work to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
SCIENCE: Masks Matter
Masks are one of the most powerful tools we have in the fight against COVID-19. Public health experts now agree that these simple face coverings play a critical role in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Scientific studies show the impact. Masks have been proven to block droplets that can carry the coronavirus from an infected person’s mouth and nostrils. Meanwhile, real world data collected before and after state masks mandates show how that masks really do matter.
Not all masks work the same, however. For the general public, experts recommend washable cloth masks that have two or more layers of fabric. While N95 and surgical masks are effective, they should be reserved for healthcare workers. Valved masks should be avoided as they allow virus particles to escape when the wearer exhales. Studies are ongoing as to the effectiveness of neck gaiters and face shields.
And masks only work if they are used correctly: Wear the mask over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin.
MYTH: Young people aren’t at risk of COVID-19
It’s no secret that young people sometimes feel as if they’re immortal. And with so much attention placed on the coronavirus outbreak’s impact on the elderly, the health risks for kids, teens, and young adults have often been overlooked. As a result, a myth has proliferated claiming that young people are not at risk of COVID-19 or that they can’t act as a vector for transferring the virus to others. That myth is far from what science shows us.
SCIENCE: People of all ages are at risk
Despite their youthful vigor, young people can contract and transmit the coronavirus. They also face severe health risks from COVID-19. While children, teens, and young adults are less likely to become severely ill from COVID-19 than older adults, patients from all age groups have had serious complications because of the disease.
From June to August 2020, young adults between the ages of 20 to 29 accounted for more than 20 percent of confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the CDC, making them the age group with the most infections in the country. One recent study of more than 3,200 hospitalized COVID-19 patients between the ages of 18 to 34 found that 21 percent were admitted to the ICU, 10 percent were put on ventilators, and 3 percent died from the disease.
As the school year resumed this fall, coronavirus infections rose among school-age children, according to a recent report. Between March 1 and September 19, at least 277,285 schoolchildren in 38 states tested positive for the virus. Meanwhile, a rare but serious condition known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) has been linked to coronavirus infections.
MYTH: At-home remedies can cure COVID-19
A quick internet search will turn up household remedies for every illness under the sun. While some of those remedies might help people feel better, few of them are validated by medical science. When it comes to COVID-19, there are no at-home cures that are backed by science.
SCIENCE: At-home remedies won’t cut it
Despite the slew of recommendations that have emerged online, there is no scientific evidence supporting the following, some of which may cause serious bodily harm if ingested:
- Saline nasal wash
- Vitamin supplements
- Ultraviolet disinfection lamps
- Garlic or ginger
- Hot or warm liquids
The only at-home treatments recommended by healthcare professionals to help reduce symptoms of COVID-19 are sleep, hydration, and over-the-counter cough syrups (for approved age groups) and medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Check with your provider before giving at-home treatments to children or taking them yourself if you are taking other medications or have chronic health conditions.
MYTH: You should skip the flu shot this year
As temperatures drop and days get shorter, flu season comes around again. In light of the new coronavirus, some people may consider skipping their annual influenza vaccine. But flu vaccines have extra importance this year because of the presence of COVID-19 and the strain the disease can put on our hospital systems. Not to mention, it is possible to have influenza and COVID-19 at the same time.
SCIENCE: Flu shots remain important
Public health experts urge everyone to get their flu shots as soon as possible. The reason is simple—the flu vaccine helps reduce the number of people who get sick with the flu, thereby reducing the spread of flu viruses and limiting the number of people who have to be admitted to the hospital with flu-like symptoms.
Keeping hospital beds open for COVID-19 patients is key to providing efficient and effective treatment. If COVID-19 cases increase, open hospital beds will be a critical part of our community’s response. Plus if a patient comes into the hospital with flu-like symptoms, hospital staff will have to assume they have COVID-19 until tests prove otherwise.
Studies have found that it is possible to have influenza and COVID-19 at the same time. It’s like a double whammy - fighting off two illness at the same time that can affect your breathing is much harder to do.
Access BayCare’s flu vaccine resource for more information about how to protect yourself and your family from the flu.
MYTH: The coronavirus vaccine will be dangerous
Vaccine hesitancy, otherwise known anti-vaccination or simply “anti-vax,” has become a growing public health concern due to the refusal of some parents to vaccinate their children or themselves against contagious diseases. As pharmaceutical companies race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, the anti-vax issue is causing some concern by suggesting that people should avoid receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
SCIENCE: A coronavirus vaccine will save lives
Immunization against disease prevents 2-3 million deaths every year by producing antibodies that defend the body against specific pathogens. In the case of COVID-19, a vaccine would help the body produce antibodies against the new coronavirus.
In order for vaccines to work, they have to check a few boxes. “More than anything we believe a vaccine is ready to be deployed when it is shown to be safe, effective, and available,” said BayCare Chief Medical Office, Nishant Anand, MD, FACEP. “Once a vaccine checks those three boxes, it’s critical that people actually receive the treatment. The more people who get vaccinated, the better our chances of reducing the spread of the coronavirus.”
Vaccines usually take years to develop and test at scale, but the urgency of the pandemic has expedited the process for the COVID-19 vaccine. While it’s impossible to say when exactly a vaccine will be available, media outlets such as the New York Times and Guardian maintain coronavirus vaccine trackers, where you can follow along with the progress.