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  • Esty Rosenfeld

Covid Conspiracies: Avoiding them like a plague

Fake news. Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Now combine the two of them and BAM! There you have it. Some juicy news bits to repost or to wisely impart to your friends and family.

The thing about conspiracies, fake news and misinformation is that it spreads faster and has a broader reach than the facts and the truth. And don’t blame it on the bots or the algorithms. A study done by three MIT scholars showed that humans propel falsehood at an alarmingly fast rate, six times faster, to be precise.

And then you become overly confident in the little bit of knowledge that you think is the truth. You mull over it and get into heated discussions over what the actual truth of the matter is. And congratulations! You’ve just earned yourself the Dunning-Krugger effect medal.


Pandemic, quarantine, isolation, masks, PPE, sanitization, these are words we’ve heard and experienced ad nauseam. It can be really hard to keep your head on straight when there are differences of opinions even amongst doctors. So much information is going around and it is causing unnecessary panic and fear. This is what Sandra Hyde, an associate professor at McGill University calls an infodemic.


At the beginning of the virus, there was a lot of talk about masks being ineffective, that people didn’t know how to wear them properly or dispose of them properly. There was also concern that there weren’t enough masks for essential workers. Then, suddenly, masks became recommended and then, soon after, became mandatory in enclosed public spaces.

One study, funded by the WHO, demonstrated the effectiveness of masks. It did not conclude whether or not the effectiveness was due to a. the barrier or the implications of wearing the mask, such as touching one’s face less, or b. the visual reminder to social distance. Holger Schünemann, one of the researchers, noted that observational studies pose more of a problem and can create more limitations than randomized trials.

One of the first randomized clinical trials written for the BMJ Open concluded that 97% of particles penetrate cloth masks in contrast to the 44% that penetrate medical masks. Additionally, there was a higher rate of respiratory infections amongst healthcare workers who wore cloth masks. This may be attributed to their moisture retention, the number of times they are reused, and their poor filtration.

The current CDC guidelines recommend reserving surgical masks for those in the medical field. They recommend that everyone above the age of two years old wears a mask when with others who are not a part of their household and in public settings where social distancing becomes difficult.

Given the fact that cloth masks may not be as effective as they are portrayed to be, and that surgical masks should be reserved for the medical staff, there is still little room for any alternatives as we live in an area where masks are mandatory in enclosed public spaces. Working with the current status and situation, one should wash their hands frequently, especially when handling their masks. Make sure to wash your masks effectively and often to avoid contracting other respiratory infections. Lastly, make sure that your mask is actually secure and fitted tightly to your face.


At some point in mid-October, there was a trending news bit that the World Health Organization (WHO) had changed its stance on lockdowns. This news bit started circulating when one of their doctors, Dr. David Nabarro said the following in an interview with Andrew Neil: “we, in the world health organization, do not advocate lockdowns as a primary means of control of this virus. The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganize, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we'd rather not do it.”

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa tried to reason why there was such a widespread misunderstanding of Nabarro’s words. Deonandan believes it’s all a matter of semantics. The term lockdown means that everything is shut down as we experienced back in March. Restrictions, on the other hand, are what we are now experiencing. Restrictions are more sustainable than lockdowns.

Rest your case

Whether you think there is a political agenda at hand, that the virus was made in a lab, that people need to be more careful or that restrictions should be loosened, respect should be your priority. I've come across a lot of borderline aggressiveness on social media. Rest your case, you won’t change anyone's minds.

By now, we’re more than half a year in, in addition to retiring the expression “avoid it like a plague,” may I suggest we stop calling these times unprecedented?

I rest my case.

Thank you. Next.

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