Top Ten Myths about the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic
- All masks work. They do not. Only new N95 masks stop viral particles. Cotton masks, bandanas, and neck gators only stop the droplets that often contain the virus, but not effectively enough to protect you.
- Public bathrooms are safe. They are not. The virus lives in feces. When the toilet is flushed, the virus is aerosolized. The air blower hand dryers then disseminate the viral particles around the room.
- Natural herd immunity will save us. Only a vaccine produced herd immunity will save us. Natural herd immunity—caused by the whole population getting sick with the virus—will not. It is dangerous to rely on herd immunity: The coronavirus is a very bad actor that can damage the lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, and small vessels. The long-term effects of infection are probably going to be even more severe than what we are seeing today.
- A vaccine is just around the corner. The corner is a long way away. A vaccine not only has to work; it must first be proven safe for the entire population. And there are other concerns: Imagine if the vaccine causes other problems, undetected for a few months or years? Or it may only provide protection for a year and need to be repeated. It may require a booster shot to be effective for older people, with less powerful immune systems. Manufacturing a vaccine is a huge undertaking and delivering it to 7 billion people will be another enormous challenge.
- Staying at home and social distancing will work. This does not solve the problem. It helps because fewer people get sick at any one time, so the medical system is not overwhelmed. It is a waiting game until a vaccine arrives. The math, however, does not work out. No country can afford to be shut down indefinitely—so stay-at-home is about to end, like it or not. And staying inside is definitely damaging to physical, mental, and social health.
- We now have enough protective gear (PPE). We do not. Most emergency room doctors and personnel are reusing their masks and gowns. The proper safety protocol, as was done with every virus and in every sterile lab before, was to change gowns, masks, and gloves between every patient, and every entry to or exit from the lab. We now realize this would take billions of masks and PPE every month, to serve health workers around the world.
- Anti-viral drugs can effectively treat the disease. They cannot. They lower the viral loads, permitting faster recoveries, but the long-term damage may have already been done.
- Ventilators are the answer for sick people. Many studies show that time spent on ventilators produces some degree of brain damage and other long-term effects. Eighty percent of people intubated and on ventilators have died from the infection. More advanced efforts to use CPAP and high-flow oxygen, combined with prone lung therapy, has helped reduce ventilator use.
- Antibody tests accurately show who has had the disease and who is immune. They are not particularly predictive of either case. We do not yet know how powerful the antibodies we develop are in preventing another course of the disease, nor how long they may last. When you get a flu shot, the antibodies you develop last only about a year—which is why you need an annual flu shot.
- The government will show tremendous leadership, and coordinate a national and global response, distributing scarce resources equitably. It will use its command authority to force the manufacture of needed supplies, validate the tests and treatments before they are released to the public, and walk the talk of social distancing and mask use. When a vaccine is finally available, they will use their power and moral authority to distribute it to the world, thereby reasserting America’s leadership and respect.
And pigs can fly.