May 28, 2020

Bots vs science

*** in the light of the morning after a good night’s rest, I realize that my choice of words last night can be offensive, so I have reworded the phrase. Thanks for understanding.

We are entering a new phase of disinformation. Most places have done a remarkable job of sheltering in place and lowering the infection rate. Truly amazing, really. Now people are getting restless and being urged to move on. This article shows that most people are in favor of moving slowly and safely in opening up, but a “Bot” army is behind the push to re-open. Bots, for those of us new to social media, are computers connected to each other and the internet to run automated messages pushing certain themes. They can make it look like the majority want a certain thing when in reality it is a very, very small portion, if at all. They can easily skew the conversation. Discouraging and potentially dangerous.

Along with the bots, the medical community is facing another problem. Data shows that of the most watched YouTube videos, 1 out of 4 of the COVID-19 videos have misleading or false information. What are we to do? It is hard to prove who is behind these false information campaigns. How do we discern and how do we counter those arguing this misguided information.

Keeping up with data and using reliable sites that are based in science are the best ways to help yourself and others. The New York Times article gives us ways to monitor data in 5 different ways. As always, the New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, and JAMA, as well as sites for the Mayo Clinic and others, are trustworthy. Despite recent problems, the CDC and NIH are reliable sites that I use as well. It can take energy and time to try to change peoples minds, frustrating and fruitless much of the time. Possibly, remind the skeptical ones that you are doing this to prevent the spread, especially to vulnerable grand parents, relatives, and friends. This can be the gentle way to start to change minds. But remember, that if they push back, save your energy for yourself.

I am interested in this fresh data out of Seattle that shows that younger people are getting diagnosed more now than older people. Not surprising, partly because they are more liberal in their behaviors, getting out more, not wearing masks as well, being around more people. At the same time, older people, who have higher risks, are being more stringent and cautious in their behaviors. This is mixed news for us- on the one hand, more younger people will get infected which increases the virus in the community, but at the same time it reinforces that the precautions the older people are taking are working. That is encouraging data for us and hopefully can help us stay the course.

And the questions about “fomites” and catching COVI-19 from surfaces is not easy to answer and this article may help. If only I can learn not to touch my face! Keeping my hands washed will help.

And don’t forget to exercise. I feel better when I do and more stressed when I don’t.

Wash your hands and cover your nose!

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/23/upshot/five-ways-to-monitor-coronavirus-outbreak-us.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewsolender/2020/05/22/bot-army-behind-reopen-america-push-on-social-media-study-finds/#5ecfde2e39b2

https://reachmd.com/news/misleading-information-in-1-in-4-most-viewed-youtube-covid-19-videos-in-english-study-finds/1636151/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/half-of-newly-diagnosed-coronavirus-cases-in-washington-are-in-people-under-40/

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/28/well/live/whats-the-risk-of-catching-coronavirus-from-a-surface.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/27/well/move/coronavirus-exercise-stress-mental-health-depression-mood-resilience.html