Just when it felt like the coronavirus pandemic was in the rear view, a nasty new variant stuck, preying mainly on those who are unvaccinated. COVID cases are now rising in almost every state. “We’ve come a long way in our fight against COVID-19,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy today. “Thanks to the efforts of many, many people across communities in the United States, we are seeing COVID deaths markedly down from their peak. In January, we have 116 million people who have been fully vaccinated and hundreds of thousands of people each day are choosing to get vaccinated. That is all good news.” So what’s the bad news? Read on for Murthy’s warning against misinformation—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You Have “Long” COVID and May Not Even Know It.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Murthy. “Millions of Americans are still not protected against COVID-19 and we are seeing more infections among those who are unvaccinated.” He issued “a Surgeon General’s advisory on the dangers of health misinformation. Surgeon general advisories are reserved for urgent public health threats,” he added. “And while those threats have often been related to what we eat, drink and smoke today, we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health. Misinformation is false inaccurate or misleading information about health, according to the best evidence at the time. And while it often appears innocuous on social media apps and search engines, the truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones. During the COVID-19 pandemic, health misinformation has led people to resist wearing masks in high high-risk settings. It’s led them to turn down proven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to avoidable illnesses in depth. Simply put, health information has cost us lives.”
“When many of us share misinformation, we don’t do it intentionally: We are trying to inform others and don’t realize the information is false. Social media feeds, blogs, forums, and group chats allow people to follow a range of people, news outlets, and official sources. But not every post on social media can be considered reliable. And misinformation can flourish in group texts or email threads among friends and family. Verify accuracy of information by checking with trustworthy and credible sources. If you’re not sure, don’t share,” said the Advisory.
“If someone you care about has a misperception, you might be able to make inroads with them by first seeking to understand instead of passing judgment. Try new ways of engaging: Listen with empathy, establish common ground, ask questions, provide alternative explanations and sources of information, stay calm, and don’t expect success from one conversation. When many of us share misinformation, we don’t do it intentionally: We are trying to inform others and don’t realize the information is false… If you’re not sure, don’t share,” said the Advisory.
“Work with schools, community groups such as churches and parent-teacher associations, and trusted leaders such as educators and health care professionals to develop local strategies against misinformation. For example, invite local health professionals to schools or to faith congregations to talk about COVID-19 vaccine facts,” said the Advisory.
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The General also had advice for media platforms, journalists, doctors and educators. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, health misinformation has sowed confusion, reduced trust in public health measures, and hindered efforts to get Americans vaccinated,” said the Advisory. “And misinformation hasn’t just harmed our physical health—it has also divided our families, friends, and communities. While health misinformation has always been a problem, today it spreads at unprecedented speed and scale. We are all still learning how to navigate this new information environment. But we know enough to be sure that misinformation is an urgent threat, and that we can and must confront it together. The only way to address health misinformation is to recognize that all of us, in every sector of society, have a responsibility to act. Every single person can do their part to confront misinformation. But it’s not just an individual responsibility. We need institutions to recognize that this issue is their moral and civic responsibility, too, and that they are accountable. We have the power to shape our information environment, but we must use that power together. Only then can we work toward a healthier information environment—one that empowers us to build a healthier, kinder, and more connected world.”