From the Frontlines: The Spread of Misinformation
Last night at about 10 p.m., I got a text message letting me know my COVID-19 test was negative and I was cleared to leave quarantine and return to work. This was another surreal moment in this endless month of Quarantinary. I ran out of the room, hugged my wife and daughter, and had a few moments of celebration. As I said to my wife, this is the cleanest I'll be for weeks. Today I returned to work, anxious to get back to the bedside, to working with my partners and colleagues, and anxious about being back at work.
As I got dressed this morning, I put on my Relax Into The Chaos t-shirt on underneath my scrubs and drove to work. In COVID-19 time, one week feels like an eternity. Work looks different. At the entrance, I was asked how I was feeling and had my temperature checked. I was given goggles and a day's supply of masks (one each, surgical and N-95). We are now all wearing masks all the time and most of us look better with a mask on. Bonus: I no longer have to worry about eating Doritos at lunch. Everyone is noticeably distancing from each other, but it's not due to a lack of chewing gum. Everyone remains a little on edge. The number of positive COVID-19 patients and ruled out COVID-19 patients has exploded since I left, but we know we are not likely at the peak. Underlying this is the concern of everyone for their own and their loved ones’ well-being.
Many staff stopped to talk to me about their elderly parents, some of whom are my outpatients, and how they were struggling to keep them safe and keep them connected. Everyone is afraid that they will accidently bring this illness home to someone they love. But everyone is functioning well as a team, supporting each other in caring for our patients, and gearing up to continue to do so for as long as need be.
Once again, I am impressed with how my hospital has prepared and adjusted to the evolving situation. Coming in, getting screened and getting equipment was seamless and quick. Our cafeteria is stocking food for employees to purchase to bring home including milk, eggs, cheese, fresh fruit and produce, and even quarts of soup and prepared meals at dinner time. It's a great service when getting to the store is difficult and potentially dangerous.
We are a team. We will do our best to stay safe and healthy and get through this crisis together. Please do your part to help us. Check on the elderly and those who may not have access or good capabilities to use technology but if possible do so from a distance. Continue our efforts to flatten the curve. It will take time to see the results of our efforts, but they will work.
We live in an incredible information age. That does not mean it is all correct. In fact, a recent report showed that one in three people have seen false information about COVID-19 online.
I have heard many of these false claims to prevent COVID-19 and let us just reiterate the following:
- There aren’t any breathing techniques that will keep you from getting COVID-19 or any other illness.
- Getting exercise is a great way to stay healthy, but it won’t prevent you from getting COVID-19. In the hospital we encourage patients to keep up their strength and take walks – but this is to help them clear lung secretions.
- Lying on your belly will not keep you from getting COVID-19. In severely ill and critically ill patients, we use prone positioning (lying on the stomach) periodically to help with oxygenation. Prone positioning is based on physiology using gravity, blood flow, ventilation and pressure changes to improve how the lungs are performing. But using this technique at home will not affect your susceptibility to COVID-19.
- COVID-19 is not a conspiracy theory and we are not faking a pandemic. The hospitals may look quieter on the outside because all outpatient activity, visitors and vendors have stopped. But real people are getting sick and dying from this new virus. And we are doing our best to slow the spread and support patients who are critically ill.
Do your best to stop the spread of COVID-19 and misinformation. Share articles from reputable sources. And as always – the best way to slow the spread of disease and keep your family safe is to: Stay home. Stay healthy. Save lives.
Get recent updates on protecting yourself and loved ones at Lung.org/covid19.
Dr. Hill is a member of the Lung Association's National Board of Directors and is the immediate past chair of the Northeast Regional Board of the American Lung Association. He serves on the Leadership Board of the American Lung Association in Connecticut and is a former chair of that board. Read More.
Blog last updated: May 22, 2020