Separating fact from fiction: Local experts weigh in on misinformation surrounding COVID-19

Local Coronavirus Coverage

TRI-CITIES, Tenn. (WJHL) — East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health hosted a virtual meeting Tuesday night that featured several local experts debunking misinformation pertaining to the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Jonathan Moorman launched the presentation with a breakdown of the SARS CoV-19 viral infection that leads to COVID-19.

Moorman provided background information regarding the novel virus that emerged in December 2019 in Wuhan, China before spreading globally. He reminded viewers that COVID-19, although caused by a novel strain of coronavirus, is part of a larger coronavirus family.

According to Moorman, other infectious strains of coronavirus that led to recent epidemics included MERS-CoV, which has killed 800 people in the Middle East since its identification in 2012, and SARS-CoV, which killed nearly 650 in China and Hong Kong from 2002 to 2003.

“Last year, the new coronavirus that emerged was not like this [MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV],” Moorman said. “It was way, way more infectious than these previous two.”

Moorman explained that the way the novel coronavirus presents symptoms among different patients is a broad range, with some infected never showing symptoms at all.

Another local expert to speak at Tuesday night’s meeting included Northeast Regional Medical Director Dr. David Kirschke, who broke down the COVID-19 numbers among age groups.

“People in the college and young-adult age group represent the highest proportion of positive cases in our region and in the state,” Kirschke said.

According to Kirschke, younger adults have more social contacts, resulting in more room for asymptomatic transmission.

“We want to protect the people in older groups who are the most vulnerable — the most likely to have some type of risk,” Kirschke said.

“A lot of young people live with older people, whether it’s their parents or grandparents…we all have contact with older people in the community.”

Kirschke introduced the differences between the COVID-19 and influenza.

“A lot of people want to compare the novel coronavirus to the flu,” Kirschke said. “Currently, we have a much higher magnitude of deaths from coronavirus so far than last year’s flu season.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been a total of 225,084 deaths due to COVID-19 as of Oct. 27, 2020. In comparison, there were 22,000 deaths due to influenza in the U.S. during the 2019-2020 flu season.

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