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Risk in Context

Using Trusted Sources in an Age of COVID-19 Misinformation

Posted by Kristy Nicholson September 30, 2020

The first COVID-19 case was reported almost ten months ago, and it’s been more than six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it a pandemic. Over the past months, business functions and elements of daily life have slowly returned, some faster than others. Victoria has been forced to revert to lockdown more strict than early in the crisis following the second wave there over July and August.

It is increasingly clear that a return to “normal” is not imminent. Uncertainty has become the norm as people and businesses navigate newsfeeds, notifications, and online sources while trying to plan for the future. Thus many are asking: Where do we turn for insight and guidance?

A glut of information — and misinformation — has accompanied the virus. COVID-19’s virulence, transmissibility, and the effectiveness of preventive measures have all been subject to debate. The efficacy of masks, for example, has turned from a scientific issue into a political wedge. More recently, some scientists have reported that the virus is airborne in smaller droplets than originally thought — a finding with potentially serious ramifications.

So how can you seek to separate valid information from misinformation? How can you make informed decisions about strategy and protecting employees, customers, and bottom lines?

Separating Fact from Fiction

Even before COVID-19, the internet and social media had become major sources of news and health information. Some studies suggest that greater reliance on these sources can lead to declines in physical and mental health and the promotion of unhealthy ideals. Other studies, however, point to the emotional and social support that people can derive from sharing concerns.

Amid the pandemic, social media platforms have often catalysed the spread of incorrect and sometimes dangerous information. The result has often been confusion and unease, the link between the pandemic and the proliferation of conspiracy theories has been widely reported.

For employers and employees, it is challenging to balance what is certain and knowable about COVID-19 and what is well-intentioned speculation, emerging scientific hypotheses, or darker manipulative rumours. A good place to start are the established arenas of expertise and the websites of the Australian Government Department of Health, Australian Government website and WHO.

The Department of Health continually updates its website with coronavirus information, including providing the Health Direct COVID-19 Symptom Checker online tool. The Department of Health’s website’s coronavirus section also includes links to other reliable information sources, such as the news and media page, and COVID-19 resources page.

Similarly, the Australian Government website includes health advice, news and also links to state and territory COVID-19 response. Linking you to COVID-Safe resources to help you promote your COVID-Safe plan.

The World Health Organization, meanwhile, devotes a page to setting the record straight on COVID-19 myths and conspiracy theories.

When it comes to managing COVID-19 in the workplace, Safe Work Australia has a comprehensive page dedicated to COVID-19 information for workplaces including specific industry information and assistance with navigating the state and territory specific rules and restrictions.

Staying Agile

An often-challenging reality in medicine is that available information changes over time, especially around a new pathogen like COVID-19. Over the last six months, we have learned much about the virus and how to combat it. And we learn more every day, which means that advice and guidance shared months ago will likely change.

As new information arises from trusted sources, be prepared for new developments. Advice and guidance on treatment and prevention methodology, including the use personal protective equipment, workplace reopening best practices, and more, will continue to evolve. As we learn more and responses become more refined, organisations will have to grapple with developing new strategies and implementing new guidance only to find it abandoned, altered, or delayed. Marsh’s Coronavirus Risk Hub can help you navigate these complex times.

As your plans shift, it’s important to share with employees, customers, and other stakeholders updates about your pandemic response. Directing them to official government sources can help ease fear and anxiety, correct misconceptions about the virus, and improve morale, especially as efforts to return employees to the workplace and new business strategies take hold.

Related to:  Workforce Risks , Australia

Kristy Nicholson

National Manager – Safety, Workforce Strategies

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