Facts Make Us Safer. Here’s How to Find Them.
Right now, one of the best defenses we have against COVID-19 is accurate information. When we stay informed about the symptoms of the virus, how it’s spreading, and what our local governments are telling us to do to stay safe, we can help protect our families and our communities.
The problem is, information about the pandemic is everywhere. It seems like every email in your inbox, every story you read online, and every post you see on social media is about the virus. It’s easy to get overwhelmed – and confused. How can you tell what health care information is truthful, and what’s based on faulty science and rumor?
Deciding between what’s true and what’s not is critical. A lot of information circulating around the internet are simply myths. For example, two popular myths would have you believe drinking alcohol can cure the disease and that 5G cellphone towers can cause it. Both have been proven false. Following the wrong advice can actually be worse than staying completely in the dark, making you even less safe and prepared.
That’s why we all need to learn how to judge the accuracy of the news we read. In other words, we all need to learn how to be fact checkers. But how do fact checkers do their jobs?
Read like a fact checker
Professional fact checkers have a process for each claim they encounter, finding the best primary sources to prove or refute that claim. Here are a few tips to use on your own:
- Check who’s publishing the news. The websites of trusted news organizations have a look you can probably recognize. Some hoax sites pretend to mirror these sites, copying their appearance and even using similar URLs. Check the domain names of suspicious-looking pages.
- Look at the author’s credentials. An article’s author can reveal a lot about its truthfulness. Searching through an author’s previous writings can show you if you’re dealing with a legitimate journalist or someone more likely to spread falsehoods.
- Review the headline. Many misleading stories have headlines written in exaggerated language – followed by an article that’s on a completely different topic. These catchy headlines make them share-worthy on social media platforms, spreading untruths even further.
- Inspect the quotes. A serious topic like the coronavirus is going to have many professionals and academics weighing in. Any news article without quotes should raise eyebrows. Likewise, if the article does offer up experts who provide quotes, do a quick Google search to find out their backgrounds. If they talk about research they’ve conducted, look up those studies as well.
- Check the comments. An article that has generated a lot of buzz on Facebook and Twitter will probably also have scores of comments. If these comments point out that the article is false, it probably is.
Where to get essential health care news
While fact checking is important, most of us don’t always have the time to verify everything we read, especially with facts changing almost by the hour. Start with these trusted resources to get accurate, timely and reliable information.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is the nation’s leading public health authority. This agency provides regular updates on all aspects of COVID-19 – from prevention tactics to travel recommendations – on its website dedicated to the virus.
- World Health Organization (WHO). For a more global perspective, check out this specialized agency of the United Nations. You will find information about the latest worldwide education and research efforts and lists of frequently asked questions.
- NC Department of Health and Human Services. For information close to home, the state has created a website about the government’s response to the crisis. Here you can watch live briefings, find guidance from local health departments and learn about assistance for households that need help buying food or other support.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Wondering about your health benefits and coverage, or need to find a COVID-19 testing site? Here you’ll find all kinds of resources for members and their families.
The best decisions we can make about our family’s safety during this crisis start with the best information. We all have so many things to juggle – from our work to our health – that we may forget to question that social post our friend just sent us or that headline we casually glanced over. It’s all of our responsibility to make sure the facts we consume are accurate and reliable – in other words, that the facts are actual facts.