Seek Trusted Sources to Cut Through COVID-19 Noise
The first COVID-19 case was reported almost nine months ago, and it’s been more than five months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a pandemic. In the past few weeks and months, corporate functions and elements of daily life have slowly returned, but many geographies have been forced to revert to lockdowns that were common early in the crisis.
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 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 catalyzed the spread of incorrect and sometimes dangerous information. The result has often been confusion and unease: Nearly half of American adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center in mid-March said they had seen at least some “made up news” about COVID-19. In the months since, misinformation campaigns have grown at a seemingly exponential pace.
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 rumors. A good place to start are the established arenas of expertise and the websites of the WHO and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC continually updates its website with coronavirus information, including how to identify symptoms and which individuals may be at greater risk. The CDC website’s coronavirus section also includes links to other reliable information sources, such as the National Institutes of Health. The WHO, meanwhile, devotes a page to setting the record straight on COVID-19 myths and conspiracy theories.
Higher education institutions, including Johns Hopkins University and the University of Oxford, have leveraged experienced academic and epidemiological teams to share easy-to-digest research, infographics, dashboards, and more with the public. The websites of other government agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, can also provide invaluable resources for employers.
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 evolve. As we learn more and responses become more refined, organizations will have to grapple with developing new strategies and implementing new guidance only to find it abandoned, altered, or delayed.
And as your plans shift, it’s important to share with employees, customers, and other stakeholders updates about your pandemic response. Directing them to the WHO, CDC, and other reliable 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.