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As the COVID-19 coronavirus continues to occupy everyone’s attention, it is important to take a few moments and think about where to get the most timely, accurate information about COVID-19, its spread, what the government is doing at all levels – Federal, state, and local – in its response, and what we can all do to manage and mitigate the potential for infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) is fighting an” infodemic,” as well as COVID-19.

For those of you who have been reading my weekly column for the past year (hi mom!), you will not be surprised to read that the COVID-19 outbreak is a ripe opportunity for spreading disinformation and misinformation. U.S. State Department officials who focus on countering influence operations have stated that Russia has been spreading disinformation about COVID-19 on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Specifically:

“’Russia’s intent is to sow discord and undermine U.S. institutions and alliances from within, including through covert and coercive malign influence campaigns,” said Philip Reeker, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia.”

“‘By spreading disinformation about coronavirus, Russian malign actors are once again choosing to threaten public safety by distracting from the global health response,” added Reeker.

Microscopic view of COVID-19 virus. Image

But it is not just Russians looking to make mischief or the leaders of foreign governments like China who are trying to manage their information flows around the COVID-19 outbreak to maintain authoritarian control of their citizens that are creating problems. Earlier this week Rush Limbaugh decided to broadcast that the COVID-19 virus was both no different than a cold and that it was created as a Chinese bioweapon. While the COVID-19 virus is a coronavirus like the common cold, it is not the same as the common cold and it is also not a Chinese bioweapon.

Another conspiracy was created this week that COVID-19 and the statements of US infectious disease and public health professionals are a conspiracy to damage the President in regard to his reelection because one of the top Centers for Disease Control officials in charge of the response, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, just happens to be the sister of former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Dr. Messonnier did not spend four years in medical school, complete her internship and residency, and then took a civil service position with the Centers for Disease Control all so that decades later she could work from within the CDC to prevent the President from being reelected by trying to provide Americans timely, accurate information regarding a major emerging public health emergency. In order for this conspiracy theory to make sense, Dr. Messonnier would have had to anticipate that the president would get elected, be in office, and have a potential epidemic more than 30 years before the President ever started to publicly discuss running for president.

To think security and inoculate ourselves against conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation there are a number of places that we can we all go to get timely, accurate information about what is going on with COVID-19. The first stop should be the Centers for Disease Control, which is working to keep us as safe and healthy as possible. Here is the link to their COVID-19 fact page, which they update daily. And here’s the link to the CDC’s COVID-19 FAQ page.

The University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease and Research Policy has created their own online COVID-19 resource center.

The University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus online resource page includes links to the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 resources among other information. Here is the link to the Colorado Department of Health & Environment’s resource page on COVID-19. And while there is nothing specifically about COVID-19 at the site, here is the link to the Chaffee County Department of Public Health, which should be a go to for those of you in the Ark Valley about what is and is not going on.

There are also some basic precautions we can all undertake — Ark Valley Voice did a recap of precautions earlier this week.

A microscopic image of the COVID-19 virus. Image courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Laboratories of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Do not attempt any self treatments unless you’ve first checked with your health care provider. There are a lot of alternative treatments being suggested online that not only will not prevent the COVID-19 virus, but will actually harm you if you try them.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.Org has an entire online resource debunking COVID-19 myths, including bogus cures or preventive remedies (If you don’t have a healthcare provider or cannot reach them, then check with your county’s public health department. DO NOT DRINK BLEACH).

Finally, to circle back to getting timely, accurate information regarding COVID-19, watch your local TV news and read your local news sources, including the Ark Valley Voice. These resources will have the most accurate and up to date information about what is going on in your local area regarding COVID-19.

Keeping yourself informed can help to keep you and your families safe and healthy as the COVID-19 outbreak develops. Keeping yourself informed with timely, accurate information is not hard, but it is necessary to ensure that you are thinking security in regard to your health.