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Five people to listen to during coronavirus outbreak — and five to ignore

Coronavirus outbreak: WHO warns COVID-19 pandemic ‘is accelerating’
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, issued a stark warning to global media on Monday when he said that numbers from around the world show that the COVID-19 pandemic "is accelerating."

Stay home. Don’t leave if you don’t have to.

Don’t go to the pub, don’t sit in a restaurant and don’t invite your friends over. If you need some fresh air, a walk is good but keep at least two metres between you and people who aren’t already in close contact with you at home.

That’s the advice experts are offering as the new coronavirus continues to spread.

READ MORE: ‘All it takes is one slip’ —Impassioned pleas from the coronavirus front lines

And yet, amid so many headlines and so much panic and anxiety, it’s easy to get confused. It was social distancing, now it’s physical distancing. Playgrounds were an OK respite for parents trapped inside with their kids, but now they’re not.

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If you’re confused about who to pay attention to and who to ignore, you’re not alone.

Here are five voices to listen to and five more to tune out:

LISTEN: Dr. Theresa Tam

Canada’s chief public health officer is the go-to for the latest Canadian messaging on self-quarantine and COVID-19 case numbers. She’s also the best person nationally to speak to hospitals’ attempts to increase their capacity, the purchase of additional ventilators and other much-needed equipment.

READ MORE: Ontario health officials sound alarm over impending shortage of masks, protective gear

Tam also keeps her Twitter feed frequently updated with the mental health aspects of physical distancing that people should be watchful for, as well as how to best talk about the pandemic with your children and teenagers.

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READ MORE: Canada’s chief medical officers offer clarity in age of coronavirus

LISTEN: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Trudeau, who is himself in isolation after his wife was diagnosed with COVID-19, has been providing Canadians with daily updates on the country’s plan for addressing the virus.

On March 23, he urged people to take physical distancing more seriously — lest the government need to resort to more extreme measures to force people to. For the most recent updates, click here.

LISTEN: Dr. Anthony Fauci

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases often appears at COVID-19 press conferences with Donald Trump. He also often contradicts what Trump is saying, providing a near-immediate fact check — to both the delight and worry of those who fear Trump will fire Fauci for contradicting him.

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“I don’t want to embarrass (Trump),” Fauci recently told The New York Times.

“I don’t want to act like a tough guy, like I stood up to the president. I just want to get the facts out. And instead of saying, ‘You’re wrong,’ all you need to do is continually talk about what the data are and what the evidence is.”

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LISTEN: ‘Dr. Tedros’

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WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, or “Dr. Tedros” as some have taken to calling him, has been a near-constant face as the world grapples with COVID-19.

He urged the rest of the world to brace for the virus, continues to remind young people that they are “not invincible” despite their reluctance to practise physical distancing, and is part of the core COVID-19 team at the WHO, that you should look to for guidance.

LISTEN: Your local public health officer

Across Canada, public health officers have provided nearly nonstop COVID-19 updates. They’ve spoken about their own efforts at physical distancing and done their best to offer people a sense of certainty in uncertain times.

Here’s who to look to for the most up-to-date information:

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Coronavirus outbreak: NWT declares public health emergency despite having no confirmed COVID-19 cases
Coronavirus outbreak: NWT declares public health emergency despite having no confirmed COVID-19 cases

IGNORE: President Donald Trump

The U.S. president continues to call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” despite the risk of hate crimes, touted false promises about a cure, and retweeted his son, sharing the falsehood that the new coronavirus is not contagious among humans (it is — very).

Trump also peddled chloroquine, a malaria medication, as a treatment, an announcement that prompted criticism from the medical community, shortages of the drug, and — now — at least one death.

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In short, if you’re listening to people in the U.S., listen to Dr. Fauci.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trump lashes out at reporter asking about “scared” Americans amid pandemic
Coronavirus outbreak: Trump lashes out at reporter asking about “scared” Americans amid pandemic

IGNORE: Dr. Oz

One of TV’s most famous doctors Dr. Mehmet Oz has used his television appearances to peddle potential treatments that haven’t yet been tested.

Dr. Oz’s comments about a so-called “game-changer” of a drug combination on Fox News was immediately criticized by the U.S.’s Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who said none of it has been properly tested and the focus needs to be on flattening the curve, rather than possible future treatments, which are still 12 to 24 months away.

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IGNORE: COVID-19 scammers, including anyone the Buzzfeed disinformation unit has debunked

Scams piggybacking off the spread of COVID-19 have been circulating with zeal. In Ontario, the Peterborough Police Service is asking residents to be on the lookout, while the Nova Scotia Securities Commission warned about a scammer who calls pretending to be a National Bank representative and demanding money in order to save their collapsing investment plan. Albertans and Saskatchewanians have also been told to keep an ear out.

If the scams are hard to keep track of, you can follow Buzzfeed’s disinformation unit, including reporter Jane Lytvynenko, who is one-by-one debunking people’s attempts to peddle fake cures (essential oils, vitamins and teas will not protect you from COVID-19) and share shoddy medical studies.

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Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer warns of phishing scams during COVID-19 scare
Manitoba’s Chief Public Health Officer warns of phishing scams during COVID-19 scare

Researchers at the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom offered up a few tips for anyone trying to discern between real and fake:

  1. The bigger and more extraordinary the claim? The bigger and more extraordinary the evidence backing it up should be.
  2. How precise and unambiguous are the details? “Saying that an experiment has proven a particular fact is a lot stronger than saying it suggests that something might happen in the future.”
  3. Who else is reporting an “amazing breakthrough”? If it’s only one outlet, then it’s time to be skeptical.

READ MORE: Coronavirus makes life harder for people already socially isolated

IGNORE: Evangeline Lilly and other celebrities

The Ant-Man and the Wasp actor Evangeline Lilly has made waves for saying that she will not self-isolate or practise social distancing with her two children, despite living with her immune-compromised father who has leukemia.

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“#morningtea Just dropped my kids off at gymnastics camp. They all washed their hands before going in. They are playing and laughing. #businessasusual,” she captioned a photo of tea on Instagram.

READ MORE: COVIDIOTS — New name for shaming ignorant, selfish coronavirus reactions

She then went on to incorrectly call COVID-19 a “respiratory flu” and hinted that the outbreak is some sort of political hoax because it’s a U.S. election year. To be crystal clear, COVID-19 is not a political hoax and it is not the flu (here are the symptoms to watch for).

Coronavirus outbreak: Canada won’t send team to Olympics unless it’s postponed 1 year
Coronavirus outbreak: Canada won’t send team to Olympics unless it’s postponed 1 year

IGNORE: Yummy Mummy Emporium

The Yummy Mummy Emporium and Apothecary in Minden, Ont., is spreading untruths online, including the completely false statement that “germs don’t cause disease.”

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Once those statements started drawing the ire of folks online, the emporium posted to its Facebook page, “How upsetting to see all the zombies out there who cant [sic] even hold an intellectual conversation or hear new information.”

Let’s be clear, germs do cause disease and viruses — including the novel coronavirus — are very real. Listen to Dr. Tam, Dr. Fauci, Trudeau, and the WHO, not Yummy Mummy. If you need to “wake up,” as the folks behind Yummy Mummy put it, it should be to the very real need for physical distancing if we are to flatten the curve.

READ MORE: How coronavirus is spreading across Canada

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.