Pandemic panic promotes misinformation

Illustration by Christian Ayala

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in what seems like half of the population stockpiling, panicking and preparing for the worst. The other half seems to not perceive the virus as a real threat and chooses to continue living their lives as normal. These extreme mindsets combined with the media's exploitation of the situation creates mass hysteria and promotes misinformation.

The pandemic should be handled rationally. There is no reason to stockpile toilet paper and hand sanitizer. This only prevents high-risk individuals from obtaining necessities.

Individuals should put in more effort to educate themselves on reliable and accurate information regarding COVID-19.

With media outlets competing to capitalize on the current global health crisis, it is important to understand that not all news articles will provide accurate and reliable information. Unfortunately, many news sources view the pandemic as an opportunity to increase engagement. However, one reliable source for COVID-19 information and development is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Information provided by the CDC debunks many of the inaccurate beliefs held by the majority of the population. According to the CDC, the best way to prevent exposure to COVID-19 is not through the use of gloves or medical face masks, but instead by avoiding person-to-person contact.

The virus is most commonly spread between individuals who are less than 6 feet apart from each other through respiratory droplets produced by an infected person’s sneeze or cough, as explained by the CDC.

This supports the idea that constant use of hand sanitizer and medical face masks will not determine whether an individual contracts the virus. The best precaution is the limitation of person-to-person contact.

Individuals who do not take the pandemic seriously are just as harmful as those who panic and stockpile.

According to USA Today, young college-aged students flooded Florida beaches in celebration of spring break in March despite recommendations to avoid large social gatherings. These students will travel back to their home states following the break and further spread the virus.

A spring break goer named Brady Sluder reported to USA Today his feelings on staying at home due to COVID-19.

"If I get corona, I get corona,” Sluder said. “At the end of the day, I'm not going to let it stop me from partying."

Many young people share this dangerous mindset surrounding the pandemic. They believe that the risks are insignificant or over-exaggerated.

The World Health Organization reported 1,356,780 confirmed cases of COVID-19 along with 79,385 deaths, as of April 8. These numbers stress the severity of the current global health crisis.

Those who do not believe they are at risk put others at risk of contracting the virus. Elderly and immunocompromised individuals could lose their lives as a result of the carelessness of those who do not take proper precautions.

While the carelessness of individuals negatively impacts the overall situation, the media plays an even larger role.

Now more than ever, people are turning to journalists for updates and knowledge. We trust that the media will provide accurate information with our best interest in mind.

Unfortunately, global crises provide news outlets with the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the public. Some media outlets are reporting on anything COVID-19 related, regardless of how trivial. They are also promoting mass hysteria with panic-inducing clickbait headlines that dance in the gray area of accurately representing information reported in the story.

The media needs to take responsibility and prioritize good journalism over exploitation. News outlets should practice integrity within journalism. The public looks to journalists during crises and trusts that they are supplying accurate information.

In a time of crisis, a sensationalized story is not what the public needs.

Additionally, individuals should take the initiative to educate themselves on the risks and prevention of COVID-19. People should not have to fear for their lives or go without necessities because of others’ ignorance or selfishness.

We need to come together in avoiding public gatherings and practicing good hygiene for the well-being of those at risk. Spring break or your buddy's game night is not worth the loss of innocent lives.