In addition to battling the coronavirus, states and localities are spending time and increased effort batting down rumors and myths — everything from President Donald Trump’s suggestion last week that injecting poisonous disinfectants might help to rumors that National Guard troops are enforcing stay-at-home orders at gunpoint.
Do 5G cell towers spread the virus? Nope. Can cats give you COVID-19? Unlikely, though some felines have it. Are police in Salisbury, North Carolina, conducting random checkpoints to test for coronavirus? No, again.
These and other rumors are landing on state and local rumor control websites, which officials have ramped up during the pandemic. [In Flagler County, the rumor mill has been fed by a county commissioner, Joe Mullins, who, tailoring his style along Trump’s, has subverted his own government’s messages of caution by calling for a speedier reopening of society and falsely blamed local officials or even this news site for causing the shut-down of local businesses. The shut-down was ordered by the governor.]
Police, health officials and emergency management teams are spending valuable time fending off the falsehoods that have neighborhoods in a tizzy and gun sales on the rise.
But debunking the rumors is absolutely essential for state and local governments, said Bob Griffin, dean of the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity at the State University of New York Albany. Untruths, he said, undermine critical information from official governments at a time when people need to be listening to experts and following instructions.
“The problem isn’t the boy who cried wolf, it’s the president who is crying wolf,” Griffin said. “The governors’ experts are spending their precious time debunking the fact that the wolf doesn’t exist. The problem is when the wolf does exist, nobody’s going to believe it.”
Many cities and states had rumor control sites and hotlines before the pandemic. Now they have converted them into landing pages for COVID-19 information or are using them to connect residents to facts about the virus.
In Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, officials are pleading with residents not to inflame the rumor mill.
“Rumors and misinformation can be destructive and can even cause harmful behaviors that increase personal and public health risks,” officials said on the county’s website. “While we cannot realistically respond to every rumor, this page is dedicated to addressing rumors about COVID-19 and related information that can be damaging to our efforts to mitigate the impact of the virus in our community.”
The rumor page was set up in response to the virus, said Communications Director Amie Downs. The county is partnering with other agencies, such as the state police, to corral the urban legends.
Once in charge of communications for the entire county government, Downs said her “entire job” these days is both responding to individual questions about virus rumors and pushing out information to the media in an effort to quash myths before they run wild.
Downs said she is working 12-hour days dealing with the rumors. Sometimes that means answering emails from individual residents, such as the one asking whether the county was going to open all its public pools the next day (the answer was no). And she spends some of her time in broader conversations with the health department about widespread myths such as “all Social Security checks are going to be stopped.”
When people tout unproven coronavirus cures or medications, such as when Trump suggested that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine might be effective against the virus, “it is not at all helpful,” Downs said. On Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that the drugs can cause dangerous heart rhythm abnormalities in coronavirus patients.
At his news conference on Thursday, Trump suggested that household disinfectants that “knock it (COVID-19) out in a minute,” might be used “by injection inside or almost a cleaning. It would be interesting to check that. It sounds interesting to me.”
His statements prompted the makers of Lysol and other disinfectants to release urgent statements that their products were not meant to be ingested.
“As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” Lysol’s parent company Reckitt Benckiser said.
At New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s daily news conference on Friday, New York Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker reminded people that cleaning and disinfecting solutions are “things you would not ingest, and, as you know, we make sure our kids do not go into cabinets that have any of these chemicals in them, so you need to stay away from those products.”
The White House issued a statement trying to clean up Trump’s remarks and blaming the media for distributing them, but rumor control officials worry the damage could already be done.
Other states also are spending valuable time batting down rumors. The top item on Maryland’s rumor control site debunks the idea that martial law has been declared. (Questioners saw National Guard troops in Baltimore.) A similar rumor was spreading in Ohio — also not true.
New Jersey’s site debunks the idea that ibuprofen can exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms and strengthen the virus. And the site for Fairfax County, Virginia, advises residents that they are highly unlikely to get COVID-19 from mail or packages, and that there is no truth to rumors that certain races and ethnicities are immune to the virus.
Many states have been advising residents with questions about something they heard to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has set up its own rumor control webpage.
–Elaine S. Povich, Stateline
If you are dumb enough to inject or ingest cleaning chemicals you should die. This is another poor excuse to spread your bias opinion of the president.
Based on your logic Trump should have dropped dead the minute he opened his mouth and started this shit. The idiot has told 20,000 lies, continues daily and when nobody listens to him or questions him, it’s the media creating the problem. Even his Communist Escort knows what a lair he is.
Common sense-not so common says
I was unaware of all these rumors. Where do people get these
Ridiculous ideas? What trump said was not a rumor but a statement/suggestion to Dr. Birx that “we should test out using disinfectants internally to kill the virus and to test using UV light internally, there’s a way to do that,” trump says. Really? This leads one to ponder if trump himself has utilized internal UV light. I can only imagine how that was accomplished but I’d rather not. Anyone with more than one operating brain cell would know that ingesting poisonous cleaners in any way can kill you. What you’re watching unfold folks, is the result of piss poor and insanely horrible leadership from the Whitehouse. If it wasn’t so pathetic and potentially dangerous, I’d be laughing.
Concerned Citizen says
Thank you once again for being the light in the darkness. So many of these idiot rumors cannot stand on two legs yet people jump on them and spread them with abandon. Some have found their way into my inbox via texts and messages. Sad there is one person in particular that is deliberately spreading this slime in our county to his own ends and sadder still he is an elected official. He is a disgrace
Here is a fact that is not a rumor- If you are a healthy person you will not die from this virus. You may catch it but it will be anywhere from a cold or flu reaction to you.
1- If you do not smoke
2- If you do not abuse alcohol/drugs
3- If you are not obese
4-If you do not take prescription medication daily
These 4 items weaken the immune system. So if you do not fall into the above -You will not die-That is a fact
My wife is an ICU nurse and works in the covid unit. This isn’t true. Young healthy people are dying due their heightened immune response creating inflammation that damages lung tissue and other organs. This isn’t even the problem. The problem is that if large numbers of vulnerable individuals get infected, the healthcare system won’t be able to keep up. So far, we’ve avoided that in our small town. Either way, you’re wrong. Young, healthy, non-smoking people are dying and you’re literally spreading false rumors on an article about false rumors. This is the whole point of the article.
Tom Donaghy says
Oh my god! You mean I wasn’t supposed to inject Lysol and drink bleach to prevent exposure to COVID 19!! And to think Trump suggested that an existing malaria drug could be helpful in fighting this pandemic. This article makes everything so clear to me now. Trump must be a Lysol addict. How did I overlook that. Thank you for informing all of us about the dangers of this addiction!! I was just getting ready to shoot up down on the beach this afternoon too!!
Honest Truth says
Joe Mullin needs to be removed from office he is a menace to Flagler County and goes around causing more trouble then he is worth.
If the Flagler County Commissioners that hard up that they need Joe Mullin as a Commissioner? Yes unfortunately, he was elected but also giving the trouble he is causing in this county he needs to be removed.
B in PC says
You can blame it on Trump all you want. He will still be reelected.
James Pursley says
The way I took it was that the President was “Thinking Out Loud” which is way more than the Left has done. It seems that the Left takes Rumors and makes a Story out of it instead of doing Research. Why don’t you write a Story about how much it has cost the American Tax Payer for the Democrats to Try to Impeach our President. Also in that story that you won’t write also Research, if you know what that is , what good the Democrats have accomplished in the last 3 years, of course they didn’t accomplish much while Obama was in office.
Exactly Mr. Pursley!! Thank you!,!
The damage HAS already been done. Trump spit those exact words out of his mouth. It is NOT considered a “rumor”. He made a STATEMENT. It was a Stupid statement. Probably one of the Stupidest things I ever heard in my life. AND… there are actually Stupid people out there that would take his statement to heart. If a large, well-known company like Lysol had to post a disclaimer, then even They know how Stupid of a statement the president made. SMH🤯😱
Trump asked “is there a way we can do something like that, by injection …?”
That is a question, not a statement.
Every time a “journalist” refers to what Trump actually said, they embellish it with something he didn’t. Case in point here, you claim Trump suggested injecting “poisonous” disinfectants. He never said “poisonous,” as he merely discussed possible treatments being investigated or, in some cases actually being used for other ailments. Interestingly, some are claiming his musings are going to cause people, en mass, to go out and inject themselves with household cleaners. Those very same people don’t believe, however that Nancy Pelosi publicly stating Trump “is telling us to inject Lysol into our lungs” will cause those same morons to suck on a can of Drano. If they’re going to do if Trump himself suggests it, they will be equally eager to shoot up Lysol if it’s relayed through the authoritative and respected Speaker of the House.
Gary R says
Michigan state Rep. Karen Whitsett from Detroit has credited the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine — and President Trump — for her recovery from the novel coronavirus.
Detroit Democrats unanimously passed a resolution Saturday to censure a Democratic lawmaker who credited President Donald Trump with advocating for the drug that she said cured her of COVID-19.
Whitsett’s comments landed her in hot water with the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party organization, which unanimously passed the 15-delegate vote via Zoom Saturday ousting the first-term lawmaker representing the 9th Michigan House District.
My question is why? Never knew saying thanks to somebody would be a bad thing.
I have heard and read from some doctors that hydroxychloroquine on low dose works. Other doctors say it is dangerous or not helpful. The doctors can’t even get it right.
Gary R says
Doctors in Nevada Sue Governor Steve Sisolak Over Ban on Hydroxychloroquine http://www.floppingaces.net/most-wanted/doctors-in-nevada-sue-sisolak-over-ban-on-hydroxychloroquine/
Yes. . . but, it is a completely asinine question, and one that should NOT be posed on television or in any public forum, where an uneducated public can be very dangerously influenced. OMG!
We’re also a Country that requires “Caution Contents are Hot” on cups of coffee…..
Don’t forget the “DO NOT EAT” labels on the desiccant packets put in new electronics. How disappointed was I when I went out and bought an 85” TV at Best Buy just so I could eat that oversized packet of delicious chemicals, only to learn it was inedible.
Please get educated.
trump “WAS” impeached. . . just like Nixon and Clinton.
The Democratically controlled House of Representatives HAVE passed well over 300 bills that are being stonewalled and not even discussed by the Republican controlled Senate. It is the “Republicans” who are stopping legislation from being approved:
And if that legislation was anything like The Green New Deal, then kudos to them!
Dan Faulkner says
Nixon WAS NOT impeached! The judiciary committee voted out 3 articles with Republican support. The articles were to then go to the full house for debate and a vote on impeachment before the entire House of Representatives. Nixon resigned prior to any scheduled debate and vote. In all likelihood he would have been impeached, but there was never a full house vote on the articles.
Sad that we need to pay National Guard to pack food boxes rather than to engage in vital military training and operations that require special military skill. Folks who are unemployed could be hired to pack boxes. Yes, test everyone involved…
Thank you Dan, you are quite correct. How pathetic that so many do not understand that trump was impeached. . . which was the point I was making.
This is a great segway to point out that even Nikon had enough honor and intestinal fortitude to “RESIGN”. While trump, “the neurotic paranoid megalomaniac insecure bully” just doubles down on his despicable corrupt actions. . . dragging our society and culture into the septic tank with him.
Stay safe and healthy all! Social distance, wear your mask, wash your hands. Have FUN on this beautiful day!