Wicker: Americans need accurate information to make good decisions

Published 10:31 am Friday, March 20, 2020

As the coronavirus takes a greater toll on our economy and daily lives, it has become the centerpiece of news coverage, social media posts and conversations nationwide. Unfortunately, public interest has often exceeded what is known about the relatively new disease, allowing misinformation, myths and confusion to fill the void.

Americans need accurate information during this pandemic to make informed decisions about their health and safety. In order to set the record straight, I am working to dispel several common myths about the virus below.


MYTH: Young people are immune to the coronavirus.

FACT: Although older people are more likely to experience severe complications, anyone can get the virus. Those with underlying health conditions can also have more severe reactions, regardless of their age. In fact, a new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that one in five Americans who have been hospitalized with the virus are between ages 20 and 44. Young people should set aside any illusions that they are immune to this virus.


MYTH: Only people with symptoms can spread the virus. 

FACT: Many people may have the virus for days without showing any symptoms. Some infected individuals may never show symptoms at all. Individuals may appear and feel healthy while unknowingly spreading the virus to others. It is therefore vital that we all follow the White House’s latest guidance, even if we feel well: avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, refrain from unnecessary travel, keep your children home, and avoid visiting crowded public spaces.


MYTH: Everyone should get tested, just to be safe.

FACT: Although the government and private businesses are working to expand access rapidly, there currently are not enough tests to go around. Tests should be prioritized for those who need them most: senior citizens, those with chronic illnesses, health-care workers, those with symptoms, and those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.


MYTH: Facemasks will protect us from the virus.

FACT: Masks can make us feel safe, but they do not necessarily offer better protection. Some people have taken to wearing surgical masks, but these do not block the airborne particles that spread disease. The best mask to wear is the N95, which blocks those particles with 95 percent efficiency. However, these masks are in short supply and need to be reserved for health-care workers. Others should avoid buying them.


MYTH: The coronavirus was created in a lab.

FACT: There is no evidence to support this claim. Scientists do not have the ability to create a virus like COVID-19 in a lab. The coronavirus comes from the same family of virus as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Scientists believe both viruses originated in bats before spreading to other animals, and that COVID-19 then spread to humans at an open-air market in Wuhan, China. The Chinese government has since shut down that market.


MYTH: Pets are spreading COVID-19 to their owners.

FACT: There are no reported cases in the United States of pets getting sick with the coronavirus, and there is no evidence that dogs or cats can spread the disease to humans. CDC still recommends washing your hands after petting animals, as they can carry germs from their surroundings – just like humans.


With so much information being shared about the coronavirus, it can be hard to tell fact from fiction. I encourage all Mississippians to stay up to date and follow the latest guidelines about COVID-19 at the CDC website: http://cdc.gov.


U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is the senior senator representing Mississippi in the U.S. Senate.