COVID-19: Myths v. Reality

Confused about the conflicting info on face masks, testing, risks to children, and what you should and should not do? Wondering who to believe when experts – or politicians — disagree? Here’s what you need to know.

Misconceptions NCHR Response Facts and Data
Masks are a personal choice and aren’t really effective at preventing the spread of the virus. Research now shows that masks protect the person wearing the mask as well as others nearby, because it blocks the spread of the virus when people breathe, talk, exercise, sing, etc. A study published in June found that states with mandates to wear masks slowed down their daily COVID-19 growth rate after issuing the mandate. November studies continue to show that when more people in a community wear masks, there are fewer cases. Studies comparing masks show that N95 masks are most effective, surgical masks are also very effective, and cloth masks that fit well are also effective.  Bandanas/scarves tied around the mouth and nose are too loose to be effective, and so are stretchy “gators.”
The U.S. is conducting a large number of tests, and that is why our virus statistics look worse than other countries. It’s important to measure testing and cases compared to population size.  For months, other countries conducted more tests per million people and yet had fewer cases per million people. As of Nov. 15, Denmark and Iceland conducted more tests per million citizens but had fewer than half the number of cases and a small fraction of deaths per million. According to Worldometer, as of Nov. 15, just over half a million tests have been conducted per million Americans – a much higher rate than earlier in 2020, which partly reflects daily and weekly tests on some of the same people. Compare this to Denmark, for example, which has conducted more than a million tests per million residents. In the U.S., there have been 33,994 cases and 758 deaths per million people, compared to 10,713 cases and 131 deaths per million in Denmark.
There are now drugs that are proven to prevent or treat COVID-19. There are currently no drugs approved by the FDA for the prevention or general treatment of COVID-19. Remdesivir (Veklury) and steroids have reduced hospitalizations in one or more well-designed studies, and remdesivir is approved, but only for hospitalized patients.  Studies on both are continuing. Convalescent plasma isn’t proven to work. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that remdesivir is better than placebo at shortening the recovery for hospitalized adults, but did not save lives. In October, a WHO study found no benefit of remdesivir. The National Institutes of Health has stated that there is not adequate data to suggest that convalescent plasma is safe and effective for treating COVID-19. Studies show that hydroxychloroquine is not effective for COVID-19 and the FDA states that “Hydroxychloroquine can cause abnormal heart rhythms such as … a dangerously rapid heart rate.”
President Trump claims that the U.S. has one of the lowest mortality rates from COVID-19. The number of deaths from COVID-19 per million people in the U.S. is one of the worst in the world. Since early November, more than 1,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 every day, and the average exceeded 1,500/day as of mid-Nov. 703 of every million  Americans has died from coronavirus thus far. This rate per million has been surpassed by Belgium, Spain, and Peru; is similar to the UK, Mexico, and Italy; but is much higher than Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, or Poland.
Rooms and surfaces should be sterilized to reduce the spread of the virus. The virus is rarely spread from contaminated surfaces. The virus stays  in the air when people talk, breathe, sing, cough, etc., which is the main way that the virus is spread. By Nov. 2020, experts agreed that sterilizing rooms and surfaces is rarely needed in homes, hotels, or offices. They urge the safeguards focus more attention to air filtration systems.
Older adults are the only ones at risk of getting coronavirus.  Children are not at risk. People of any age can become infected with the virus.  Children and adults can become very ill or even die from the virus, although older adults are most likely to be hospitalized or die from it. Over 1 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with COVID-19, resulting in 6,337 hospitalizations and 133 deaths, according to a November report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Once you get COVID-19, you cannot get it again. There are a few cases of patients who recovered and then were re-infected months later. There are no studies yet to determine how long immunity might last, or for whom. One man in Nevada who became re-infected with COVID-19 became more ill the second time he was infected. It is unknown yet whether people who become re-infected can spread the virus the second time they are ill.
Only 6% of deaths reported from COVID-19 are actually due to COVID-19. Death certificates are usually required to list all factors contributing to the death, so only 6% of people who died from COVID-19 had it listed as the only cause of death. Most people who die from COVID-19 have at least one other health condition, and COVID-19 is more deadly for people with health conditions such as diabetes. According to the CDC, people who died from COVID-19 had an average of 2.6 additional health conditions, such as pneumonia or hypertension. People with other health conditions are more likely to die of COVID-19, but COVID-19 is still the cause of death. Infectious disease expert Dr. William Schaffner has said “If it hadn’t been for the COVID virus infection, these people would be living today…it’s still the COVID virus that killed them.”
Antibody tests can let you know if you are immune to COVID-19. Antibody tests can tell you if you previously had the coronavirus. Unfortunately, we still don’t know whether that provides immunity, or how long immunity would last. According to the CDC, there are antibody tests and other serological tests that may show who has been infected with this novel coronavirus or other coronaviruses. There is no scientific evidence to prove whether or not these antibodies prevent future infections.
The COVID-19 pandemic will disappear soon. As long as some people are infected and they are in contact with others, the virus will spread. Most states have been surging to their highest levels of cases since October.