The world is desperate for a cure for COVID-19.
And for a magic bullet that will surely, without a doubt, keep us healthy and safe in the meantime. Something easier and less inconvenient than hand washing, social distancing and self- isolation.
Ultimately, underneath it all, we’re desperate for hope. And when hope is at a premium, it seems to be human nature to grasp at straws.
Straws such as:
• If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without experiencing any discomfort or respiratory distress, it’s a sure sign that you don’t have COVID-19. (It’s not.)
• Inhaling smoke and gas from fireworks and firecrackers will prevent COVID-19. (Seriously? It won’t — and it’s dangerous.)
• Slathering yourself with sesame oil will keep the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 from entering your body or, alternately, the oil will kill the virus. (Nope.)
• Eating garlic, gargling with mouthwash, rinsing your nose with a saline solution and/or drinking plenty of water will protect you from COVID-19. (Again, nope — even though these are good ideas in general).
If there was an easy answer, we would know it. And it would come from a reputable source.
Remember these names: On the federal level, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx. Locally, the name to remember is Dr. Philip Keiser, the local health authority for Galveston County. These are sources you can trust.
Add the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the University of Texas Medical Branch to the list, as well.
Look for directives from reputable hospitals and health-based nonprofit organizations. And for information responsibly sourced and properly attributed by trusted national and local news organizations.
Even when it comes to local politicians, doctors, police and other first responders, remember that they, while acting in your best interest, also are acting on information that often has trickled down through layers. Trust, but be aware of what you are hearing from the larger sources.
The one place not to look for concrete information is social media. Use Facebook and other platforms to reach out to one another, to check on friends and family, to share inspirational quotes and stories — all that good and necessary stuff that swaddles us in a much-needed blanket of support and camaraderie.
Also on social media, read and share medical news from — and this is key — the actual authorities. No matter how official something looks or sounds, question it. Be wary, critical even. Look beyond the post to the source.
If a reputable news/medical source is posting on social media, it most likely will already have provided the information on its own website. Look for it. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, every other week something circulated on social media “from the Mayo Clinic” that most of the time left the actual Mayo Clinic scratching its head and going, “Huh?”
These are worrisome times, no doubt. But grasping for straws masquerading as sound medical advice won’t allay any fears. It is the stress-intensifying antithesis of the self-care we’ve all been told to practice to keep us mentally and emotionally well as we work to flatten the curve and beat this beast into submission.
Meanwhile, here’s some advice you can trust: Wash your hands. Keep your distance.
• Margaret Battistelli Gardner