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Coronavirus: Debunking Common Myths

March 24, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

The 2019-2020 Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) outbreak has instilled panic and fear in many. It’s only natural to be concerned about your health and the health of your loved ones. However, panic and fear is a breeding ground for misinformation. Many people are quick to share a social media post about COVID-19 without actually fact-checking it. In our communities, misinformation spreads as quickly as real information. People have taken to wearing surgical masks, buying stocks of toilet paper from every grocery store in town, and hoarding hand sanitizers, soaps, and other medical supplies. But there’s no reason to buy into the herd mentality. Let’s debunk some common COVID-19 myths.


Myth: If I wear a face mask, I won’t get the virus

According to the WHO, if you happen to be taking care of someone who has the virus, you should wear a mask to help prevent infection. But if you’re healthy, there’s no reason to wear a face mask. However, if you’re coughing or sneezing, wear a mask to protect others. Do not reuse masks. 

Myth: COVID-19 is the same as the flu

Unfortunately, it looks like COVID-19 is more deadly than the flu, according to recent data. According to the WHO, the seasonal influenza has a below 0.1% mortality rate, while COVID-19 has a 3 to 4% mortality rate. However, the WHO says that “mortality is, to a large extent, determined by access to and quality of health care.” If you’re young and healthy, your mortality rate is also much lower.

Myth: COVID-19 is a death sentence 

COVID-19 may be worse than the flu, but don’t worry–if you’re infected with the virus, death is a very rare outcome. In fact, according to a Chinese study, 81% of people who are infected with COVID-19 have mild cases. The same study says the mortality rate is only 2.3%. This number does conflict with the WHO’s estimation of a 3-4% mortality rate, but keep in mind that so far, the majority of deaths from the virus are among elderly people and/or people with poorly managed chronic health conditions. 

Myth: Packages from China may contain COVID-19

COVID-19 does not survive long on surfaces. This means that due to long shipping times, packages or letters from China will not contain the virus. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is associated with imported goods. In addition, there have not been any cases of the virus in the United States associated with goods shipped from abroad.

Myth: You can get COVID-19 from Asian people, so avoid them at all costs

There is no scientific basis to support this claim. It doesn’t even make sense. Yes, the virus originated in Wuhan, China, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid Asians as a whole. Why would an Asian person living outside of China be more likely to get the virus than any other person? And yes, it’s safe to eat Chinese food.

Are you still concerned about COVID-19? There are health measures you can adopt to minimize your risk of contracting it:


  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, covering all surfaces of your hands (backs, too), for about 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer if soap isn’t available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Discard the tissue afterwards, and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • If you feel sick, even if you think it’s not COVID-19, stay at home.
  • Clean surfaces and objects that have been touched by other people.
  • Stay away from others. You don’t have to stay completely inside; you can sit outside or take a walk if the weather is nice. Just avoid other people or stay at least 6 feet away from them. 
  • Quarantine yourself. This is not necessary for the majority of people, but if you fall into an at-risk category, you may want to completely quarantine yourself.

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