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2019-20 COVID-19 outbreak

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Helpful advice on social media stories about COVID-19 from Douglas Adams… and from professional epidemiologists.[1]
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The 2019-20 COVID-19 outbreak (also known, before the virus was named, as the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemicWikipedia's W.svg) is an ongoing pandemic caused by a coronavirusWikipedia's W.svg named SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV), causing the disease named COVID-19.[2] The virus was first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, ChinaWikipedia's W.svg around December 2019. Initially thought of as a mysterious case of pneumonia,Wikipedia's W.svg[3] it was quickly identified as a new disease in January 2020.[4] Since then, the virus has spread from a relatively small initial infection to over 1,200,000 cases (and over 60,000 deaths) as of April 4, 2020.[5] The mortality rate of this disease, currently at around 3.4%, is higher than ordinary influenza but quite a bit lower than other coronavirus infections such as SARS.Wikipedia's W.svg[6] It has been declared a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)Wikipedia's W.svg by the World Health OrganizationWikipedia's W.svg[7] and has caused severe disruptions in China, particularly in the center of the pandemic where many areas were placed under quarantine, disrupting normal work operations.[8]

Unfortunately, panic, misinformation, racism, and quackery related to COVID-19 has spread through social media all over the globe far faster than the virus has spread itself. Also unfortunately, the pathological lying of President Donald Trump has led to what University of Chicago economics professor Austan Goolsbee calls the "pathological irony of crisis":[9]

If you lose credibility, your statements begin to mean the opposite of what you say. In other words: Entreaties to “remain calm” instead get interpreted as reasons to panic, even when calm might be justified.
—Catherine Rampell[10]

What science says[edit]

How self-isolation can slow the spread of the virus.

Due to the novelty of the disease and the rapid spread of the disease in China, COVID-19 is considered a health emergency and is being evaluated by all major health organizations around the world.[11] The source of the disease, SARS-CoV-2, is a betacoronavirus,Wikipedia's W.svg a virus known to mainly infect bats.Wikipedia's W.svg Although the details are unclear at this time, it is suspected that this virus underwent zoonosisWikipedia's W.svg — i.e., it crossed over from an animal (almost certainly a bat) to humans.[12]

SARS-CoV-2 spreads largely via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.[13] The virus has proven to be more contagious than other coronaviruses such as SARSWikipedia's W.svg or MERS,Wikipedia's W.svg in some ways behaving more like influenza.[14][15] Unfortunately, once infected, the full clinical picture with COVID-19 is not completely understood at this time.[11] While many people have had only mild symptoms, for some the disease has been deadly. Thus, the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 is high, in part because of the current uncertainty. Of note though: the disease so far statistically is more lethal among the elderly, smokers, and people with existing chronic health conditions (such as heart disease, diabetesWikipedia's W.svg, or COPDWikipedia's W.svg.) [16]

The good news is that, so far, although the potential health threat is high, and the World Health Organization's risk assessment COVID-19 is rated "very high" at a global level (its highest level)[17], the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low (at this time) for areas outside primary pandemic areas.[11]

Antiviral medications have been used on COVID-19 patients, though it's not clear yet whether or how much they help. Antibiotics can treat secondary infections such as pneumonia.[18]


Stay home if you have a dry cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and a fever.

Preventing COVID-19 is a challenge because infected people may not realize that they are infected, so they may unwittingly spread the disease instead of staying home or contacting a doctor.[19] The CDC has begun testing patients with flu-like symptoms for the virus in order to help contain it.[20]

Researchers are working hard on developing a vaccine.[21] However, testing a vaccine takes a long time, so it may take a year to a year and a half before it is ready for the general public.[22]

Disinfection vehicles in Taipei, Taiwan.

Because the transmission method is similar to flu, prevention methods are also similar to flu.[23][24][25]

  • Wash your hands regularly using soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Never spit in public
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay at least 1 meter (3 feet) away from people who are sick
  • Call a doctor if you have a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing
  • Stay home and avoid other people if you're sick

Mortality risk[edit]

Most people who become infected will survive. The death rate has been estimated around 3%, ranging from 0.16-4.9%.[26] The variability in death rates has been attributed to availability of care facilities, which in Wuhan at 4.9% were particularly overtaxed.[26] This compares with the seasonal flu death rate of 0.1%.[27]

The fatality risk is higher in senior citizens and people with certain health conditions (cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory illnesses, hypertension, and cancer).[28] While these people still have at least a 75% chance of survival if infected,[29] they and their loved ones should take extra care to reduce the risk of infection.

While people who are young and healthy are very unlikely to die, they should still practice good hygiene to protect themselves and those around them.

Conspiracy theories, paranoia and the blame game[edit]

Confirmed cases by country
See the main articles on this topic: Conspiracy theories and Paranoia

When a new epidemic arises, it's easy for people to collectively start searching for anyone, anything to blame. Sometimes the blame game extends into batshit insane conspiracy theory territory.

Claims that the virus was engineered[edit]

The scientific consensus "overwhelmingly conclude(s) that this coronavirus originated in wildlife."[30] Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 shows that it shares about 96% of its RNA with a RaTG13 coronavirus strain found in a bat, and has strange and unusual mutations that are nothing like anything a human scientist could possibly create.[31] The death rate of SARS-CoV-2 is 2%, and is estimated that an average infected human can infect 2 and a half humans,[32] this reality runs contrary to the conspiracy as the whole point of bioweapon is to kill people. Why the hell would the Chinese government want to piss off other governments by infecting their citizens and government officials?[33][34][35] Of course, when conspiracy theorists are confronted on these contradictions, they say that yes these government officials are being assassinated in the most attention-grabbing way possible, that would attract the imagination and alarm of the panicking public. One study explicitly refuted the plausibility of laboratory origin due to similarities to recently evolved zoological versions of coronavirus[36]

But that hasn't stopped conspiracy theorists from claiming that it was created in a lab as a weapon or experiment gone wrong.

  • Early indications during the pandemic showed that the first cluster of the viruses may have originated from a "wet marketWikipedia's W.svg" in Wuhan. [37] Two Chinese scientists, Botao Xiao and Lei Xiao, in a pre-print paper (that was quickly withdrawn after appearing on ResearchGateWikipedia's W.svg), proposed that the virus might have actually come from one of two research laboratories near the wet market: the Wuhan Center for Disease Control & Prevention, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.[38] Always keen to spread bullshit on anything health related, this was picked up by the Daily Mail with an appropriate panicky headline.[39] Even the yin to the Daily Mail's yang, the Daily Mirror,Wikipedia's W.svg couldn't help JAQing off on the subject as well.[40] On the American side, Senator Tom CottonWikipedia's W.svg (R-AR) repeated this bullshit on Fox News, and subsequently accused the Chinese government of lying about COVID-19.[41]
  • Zero Hedge went even further. Claiming that the virus was spreading because it was a "weaponized version of the coronavirus" originally from Canada, Zero Hedge sought to seek out who was responsible for this coronavirus. So they cobbled some criteria for narrowing down who "created" the virus from a job posting on the Wuhan Institution of Virology's website. Using these rather random criteria, they zeroed in on one Chinese scientist in particular who was focused on bat virus infections and immunity, and claimed that he created SARS-CoV-2. At that point, they proceeded to doxx the scientist, because of course they would.[42]This was enough to get them permanently suspended from Twitter.[43]
  • Why did Zero Hedge think the virus came from Canada? Because of another rumor: in July 2019, virologist Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, her husband, and some of her students from China were removed from Canada's National Microbiology LaboratoryWikipedia's W.svg in Winnipeg, Manitoba over a "policy breach". Not only did social media rumors link COVID-19 to these individuals, but baseless claims were made that Dr. Qiu and her husband were part of a "spy team" that had sent "pathogens to the Wuhan facility", and that her husband "specialised in coronavirus research".[44]
  • Memes spread online on how the Wuhan Institute of Virology's logo is similar to the "Umbrella Corporation", a shady agency responsible for making the virus that starts the zombie apocalypse in the Resident EvilWikipedia's W.svg video game franchise. Unfortunately, the logo that inspired the meme belongs to a different company altogether (Shanghai Ruilan Bao Hu San Biotech Limited, located in Shanghai, 500 miles away from Wuhan.)[45]
  • The strangest conspiracy theory came, as you would expect, from the depths of QAnon. Prominent QAnon Youtuber Jordan Sather mistakenly thought a patent for a vaccine for avian IBV,Wikipedia's W.svg[46] created by farm animal infectious disease research institution Pirbright Institute,Wikipedia's W.svg was a vaccine for COVID-19. Because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded some of the other research of this institute, Sather connected the two, causing the rumor that Gates *created* the virus to spread like wildfire across conspiracy blogs.[47] Naturally, this tied into pre-existing conspiracy theories linking Gates to bullshit that Gates wants to depopulate the planet.[48] (The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, who have been warning about the risk of a pandemic disease for years, is actually giving $100 million in funding to fight COVID-19.)[49]
  • Rush Limbaugh, on his radio program on February 24, 2020, repeated the bullshit that COVID-19 was a weaponized "ChiCom laboratory experiment". Unusually for a crank, he actually downplayed the virus risks, actually reporting the correct approximate survival rate right of 98% (the mortality rate of COVID-19 as of February 24, 2020 is around 2.3%).[50]. However, he mistakenly said that this was "a far lower death statistic than any form of influenza" (typically the mortality rate of influenza in the United States is 0.1%). [51] More to his style, he declared that "the coronavirus is the common cold" for some reason, and politicized COVID-19 media coverage by complaining that the "Drive-By Media" was "weaponizing" COVID-19 "as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump". [52] [note 1] Limbaugh's bullshit was repeated by Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, with both accusing the media and the Democratic party of "weaponizing fear".[54] (This is fairly ironic coming from a cable news network notorious for exploiting fear.) [55] Donald Trump Jr.Wikipedia's W.svg went as far as to accuse Democrats of rooting for the virus to kill "millions of people" solely for political purposes. [56]

Other misinformation[edit]

Empty shelves in a Virginia supermarket due to panic buyingWikipedia's W.svg.
  • In October 2019, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health SecurityWikipedia's W.svg hosted a high-level pandemic exercise called Event 201.[57] Players in the exercise were presented with a scenario where a fictional coronavirus (i.e., not SARS-CoV-2) started in pig farms in Brazil, and then spread around the world, leading to a (fictional) 65 million deaths. Naturally, since Bill Gates (being a huge supporter of global health initiatives) was also involved with this simulation, this morphed into sites like Infowars putting up alarmist headlines like "BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION & OTHERS PREDICTED UP TO 65 MILLION DEATHS VIA CORONAVIRUS — IN SIMULATION RAN 3 MONTHS AGO!"[58]
  • In February 2020, a viral video supposedly showing a chaotic scene in Wuhan, China circulated, where posters claimed that people were "shooting down all the people with the virus in China". This in fact was a mixture of several mislabeled videos, such as a video where firework explosions were being heard in the background, and a scene from a fatal motorcycle accident.[59]
  • Early in February, the World Population Project at the University of SouthamptonWikipedia's W.svg published research predicting where people from Wuhan had traveled to in the two weeks prior to Wuhan being locked down under quarantine. The researchers on this project posted a series of messages about their work on Twitter. One of these messages included a side point, with a map illustrating global air travel traffic (basically, all the flight paths in the world, nothing more) just to show the extent of the global air network. Somehow, tabloids such as the Sun took the global air traffic map to be an actual "HORRIFYING" map showing "the unstoppable spread of the deadly coronavirus across the globe".[60]
  • In late February 2020, Mark Richards (as reported by his admirer Kerry Cassidy) said that 30,000 Chinese have already died, and 40,000 have been "taken off-world by Reptilians assisting China in their drive to eliminate approx. 500 million people."[61] He added that "other governments are using it to facilitate eliminating some of their populations as well." Richards is a convicted murderer serving life without parole in a California State prison, and has very limited access to sources.
Ben Garrison weighs in. Can you count the conspiracy theories?
  • The misinformation is so bad about COVID-19, clear shitposting-style "jokes" about EminemWikipedia's W.svg being the first celebrity with COVID-19 (parodying Eminem lyrics in the process),[62] satirical warnings not to pop bubble wrap, [63] and "realistic" conspiracy-oriented horror fiction about COVID-19 cover-ups posted on Reddit[64] got misrepresented as factual in social media.
  • As if the Russians weren't satisfied with simply interfering with politics, United States officials said thousands of Russian-backed social media accounts are coordinating a misinformation campaign to spread coronavirus conspiracy theories. Of course, the Russian government responded to these reports as "fake."[65] This behavior is unsurprising, as Russian bots were previously identified as spreading vaccine hysteria in the United States and coordinating a misinformation campaign in the 1980s that United States scientists were responsible for creating the AIDS virus.[66][67]
  • Hal Turner, of course, also contributed to the misinformation by maintaining a webpage with "news" on the "Coronavirus in China" [68]. The page headline ups the ante on the pandemic numbers that cranks are pulling out of their ass, reporting for instance on February 13th, 2020, that "2.8 Million (are) Infected" and "112,000 (are) DEAD" from COVID-19 (far exceeding official statistics which at that time were 60,416 cases and 1,370 deaths.)[69] Other bullshit statements includes claims that the dead are "being taken directly to incinerators" to be burned, that the virus is different than SARSWikipedia's W.svg because it "causes rapid kidney failure", and an absolute certain prediction that the pandemic will cause Chinese society to collapse and "set in-motion a global economic shockwave from which the planet will be unable to recover for decades." For believers of this nonsense, Hal is happy to direct you to vendors for surgical masks (that in reality will not be helpful against this virus) [note 2] and MREsWikipedia's W.svg.
  • As a curious subtext of Conservapedia's germ theory denialism, it has blamed a combination of not following Kosher (Mosaic) dietary laws, and rampant atheism in China:[71]

The Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is an example of a deadly disease arising in animals deemed to be "unclean" by the Mosaic Law for human consumption, such as bats, snakes, cats and camels. In addition, developing countries in which basic needs — including hygiene — are poor, income is scarce, or are run by corrupt and/or atheistic cultures and governments there is often a history of poverty and famine; their societies in turn would develop a culture reflecting a wider variety of foods eaten (see: Atheism and economics). Where people consume such animals in poorly regulated food markets with poor health systems (see: Atheist hospitals in China and Atheism and medicine and Atheist hospitals) — especially if the food item is improperly prepared and cooked - a coronavirus can take hold in the human population and then spread rapidly to other people.

The article on Conservapedia was written mainly by Conservapedia:RobSmith[72] The section on Mosaic law and atheophobia was apparently approved by Andrew Schlafly.[73]
  • No, it's not caused by 5G.[74]
  • Scientists haven't proven that eating bats caused the bat-to-human jump of coronavirus.[75] There're many ways for zoonotic transmission to occur–transmission is complex with lots of variables. The virus may have an intermediate host between bat and human but scientists aren't so sure.[75]
  • Ex-sheriff David Clarke thinks that attempts to stop the spread coronavirus by restricting large gatherings are "an orchestrated attempt to destroy capitalism.[76]

Snake oil[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Snake oil

When a new disease sprouts up, scammers are bound to show up and offer you bullshit that will "protect" you from COVID-19, and, in fact, every disease known to man.

  • Disgraced evangelical preacher Jim Bakker has been hawking a "Optivida Silver Solution", a colloidal silver formulation,[77] for some time as the cure for every disease known.[78] In February 2020 he started pushing his silver solution as something that "totally eliminated, deactivated" "the coronavirus".[79] Colloidal silver is a well-known quack "cure", whose only possible effect will be argyria,Wikipedia's W.svg i.e., it may make you look like a Smurf.Wikipedia's W.svg[80][81] In March 2020, Bakker was sued by the state of Missouri for peddling fake Coronavirus cures on his television show.[82] The New York Attorney General followed suit, ordering Bakker to stop peddling this bullshit,[83] and the United States Food and Drug Administration followed up with warnings to Bakker for selling unapproved cures.[84]
  • Several prominent supporters of the QAnon movement have been promoting chloride dioxide bleach Miracle Mineral Supplement as a bullshit cure for "the coronavirus".[85] (It is true that if you die from bleach poisoning, there will be absolutely nothing to worry about regarding being infected from SARS-CoV-2.)
  • Natural News, never one to miss the opportunity to direct the paranoid and conspiratorial towards the arms of the profitable supplements businesses that support them, actually launched a separate site called "Pandemic News"[86] dedicated to spreading bullshit about the virus. Their home page has been changed to add a counter with the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths, with one line for the (according to them) "rigged" official infected and death counts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and another for the (according to them) "realistic" infected and death counts of the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring numbers that they pulled out of their ass.[87] Among their bullshit suggestions are articles that COVID-19 can be treated by "intravenous vitamin C"[88] and "all-natural oxygen therapy"[89]
  • Infowars, who also are never one to miss the opportunity to direct the paranoid and conspiratorial towards the arms of their profitable supplements businesses, have also stepped up their marketing efforts to aggressively hawk their expensive bulk freeze dried food packages, while simultaneously spreading wild conspiracy theories about COVID-19... even evoking cannibalism in their sales pitches that evoke total society collapse. [90]
  • In China, meanwhile, fans of traditional Chinese medicine snapped up a formula called "shuanghuanglian" (invented, as traditionally as you'd expect, in the 1960s) to combat the virus. Made of honeysuckle, Chinese skullcap, and forsythia, the formula sold out rapidly across the country, despite the fact that (in keeping with how most traditional Chinese medicine doesn't really work well) there is no evidence that this formula does a thing for COVID-19.[91] A drug called Kaletra (a.k.a., lopinavir/ritonavir,Wikipedia's W.svg used to treat HIV/AIDS) was also highly in demand, despite the fact that there is no evidence that this will help treat COVID-19 either.[92]
  • India went even further and actually issued a government notice[93] detailing approved ayurvedic and homeopathic methods for "prevention of corona virus infections". There is no evidence that any of this will do anything for COVID-19 beyond placebo.[94]
  • Online, other miscellaneous bullshit prevention methods spread across social media, such as one purported to be sent by "NWLLAB" telling you to "keep your throat moist", "avoid fried or spicy food", and "load up on vitamin C".[95]
  • Chiropractors pretend that if you pay them lots of money that they can manipulate your spine and give you supplements to somehow prevent and cure coronavirus.[96]
  • Some are attempting to sell "Pandemic Survival" books, using fear tactics and disinformation to do so. [97]
  • In New Zealand, the Destiny Church, a fundamentalist religious cult built around the personality of its leader, self-styled Bishop Brian Tamaki has made a number of irresponsible statements and claims. At a Sunday service he claimed, "Satan has control of atmospheres unless you are born-again Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Holy Ghost-filled, tithe-paying believer".[98] He has also claimed that he can ignore the New Zealand government's ban on gatherings of more than 500 people and remain open because prayer will protect his congregation, so long as they pay their tithes, of course.
  • "Finest Herbalist", a company that manufactures a CBD product called "Pure Herbal Total Defense Immunity Blend" was ordered by New York Attorney General Letitia James on April 2 to cease marketing its products as effective for COVID-19.[99]

Calling Doctor Howard, Doctor Fine… Doctor Trump[edit]

President Trump at the CDC, apparently more concerned with his re-election than the ongoing crisis.

"Doctor" Trump[100] himself recommended taking experimental drugs (hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin)[101] because:

—Donald Trump[102][103][104]

Trump's own chosen expert on COVID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, strongly disagreed with Trump that these drugs should be used by the general public.[102] When asked by a reporter, Fauci said:

The information that you're referring to specifically is anecdotal. It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can't make any definitive statement about it.
—Anthnoy Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases[102]

Importantly, taking pharmaceuticals for off-label uses, as Trump recommended, can be lethal. In the case of hydroxychloroquine, the toxic dose is as low as 20 mg/kg body weight, and the lethal dose as low as 30 mg/kg.[105] Also hydroxychloroquine suppresses the immune system,[106] so it could actually make COVID infection worse.

The US Navy is responsible for this laughably dumb image.

There is an association — although causation has not been established — between both hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine[107] and azithromycin[108][109] with adverse cardiac events. This is an additional reason not to self-medicate with these drugs.

Only a day after Trump's dangerously stupid recommendation, two cases of chloroquine poisonings from self-medication were reported in Nigeria; health workers in Nigeria (and elsewhere) have had to warn Nigerians against self-medication.[110] On March 23, 2020, it was announced that a US man has died and that his wife is in critical condition after both ingested "chloroquine phosphate,[note 3] an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks."[111]

Chloroquine, one of the first synthetic anti-malarial drugs, is not as effective at malaria prevention and treatment as it used to be due to parasite resistance. It is however effective in the treatment of a few diseases, including amebiasis and rheumatic disease.[112] Due to Trump's crank promotion of chloroquine, US stocks of chloroquine has been nearly exhausted in less than a week, likely causing severe medical consequences for patients who relied on chloroquine.[113]

Quack Doctor Mehmet Oz announced on Fox News that he was testing the drug combination, and was immediately repudiated on Fox by US Surgeon General Jerome Adams (a Trump appointee).[114]

The researcher behind this shitshow is Didier RaoultWikipedia's W.svg (1952–), who besides publishing a really lousy paper on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin (non-randomized, no true control group, bad ethical practice, dubious peer review), has also been caught falsifying data in the past.[115][116][117][118] Raoult has cast doubt on randomized trials generally, as well as on the value of scientific consensus.[115][118] Incidentally, Raoult has also broadened his 'research' by denying climate change[119] and Darwinian evolution (and its Modern Synthesis).[115][120]

Under what was likely intense pressure from the White House, the FDA issued an approval letter for emergency use of chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate (but not azithromycin) on March 28, 2020.[121] Notably, the FDA letter "did not cite specific studies or evidence the FDA used to support the decision."[121][122]

Racism and trolling[edit]

See the main articles on this topic: Racism and trolling
It is a foreign virus, if the chinese held high hygiene standards we wouldn't be in this mess right now.
—FoxxysTweets, local racist on Twitter responding to a post from the wingnut Nearly 80 likes, a few retweets.[123]

The coronavirus outbreak also indirectly victimized Asians by bringing out the worst in racists. Particularly, it harkens back to an old racist sentiment that the Chinese are filthy and eat whatever animal they like.[124] Many Asians (regardless of whether they are Chinese or not, this includes Taiwanese people) have reported experiencing increased profiling and social isolation over concerns that they might have COVID-19 (complete with racist terms and tropes directed against them in some cases). Rumors about Shen Yun being a vector for coronavirus have been circulating despite the dance company being located in New York, being banned from performing in China, and the members not having visited China in years.[125] Business has slumped at many Asian-oriented establishments in the West.[126] These verbal attacks have occasionally crossed over into assault and harassment.[127] It's most apparent when racists don't get the nationality correct and just assume every East Asian-looking they see is a new Chinese immigrant and not someone that's been more likely living there long before the outbreak. For instance, in January 2020, a viral video showing a young Chinese woman eating a whole bat with chopsticks spread rapidly across social media. In reporting on this video, the Daily Mail (of course) called it "revolting footage" while winking and nudging that "scientists link the deadly coronavirus to the flying mammals".[128] The problem is, the video in question (filmed in 2016, several years before the virus outbreak began) was regarding travel blogger Wang Mengyun eating a bat in Palau,Wikipedia's W.svg a Pacific Island nation where bat-oriented cuisine is common.[129][130] Naturally, Mengyun received hate mail (and even death threats).[131] Daily Mail and their culinarily stunted audience will do well to pay no attention to their own abusive and filthy food industry that requires pumping drugs to treat animals sickened by the industry.

A few businesses across the globe are prohibiting "all people coming from China" from entering their establishment due to excessive COVID-19 fears.[132] Stroking anti-immigrant bigotry while politicizing the COVID-19 in the United States, Donald Trump, in a campaign rally on February 28, 2020, called COVID-19 the Democrats' "new hoax", ironically accusing the Democrats of doing the very same thing he is doing — politicizing the virus. He then linked the virus to the "many other public health threats" of "the Democrat policy of open borders".[133] (Fear of infectious disease is widely seen as being a strong motivating factor behind racism [134], so it is not surprising that Trump is using the virus, characterizing it as a "foreign" virus,[135] (hint for xenophobes: political boundaries don't define a virus) to "rally his base" behind his racist, xenophobic[136] "immigration policy".)

A laughable instance of plumb-ignorant racism involves a fake shitpost circulated in Australia, from the "Department of Diseasology Parramatta", warned fellow racists, in poor grammar, about contaminated "Asian" products including Lipton's peach ice tea[137] (Lipton is a British company). It has gotten so bad that NSW HealthWikipedia's W.svg responded.

For some reason, a story about a CameroonianWikipedia's W.svg man living in China who contracted, and was successfully treated for COVID-19[138] generated bullshit racialist posts online that he actually fought off the virus "because he has black skin, (because) the antibodies of a black person are 3 times strong, powerful,and resistant as that of a white".[sic] There is no scientific evidence to support this claim.[139]

Information suppression[edit]

Order from the Wuhan Police demanding Dr. Li Wenliang to stop "spreading rumors" about a possible "SARS virus" dated 3 January.


China's government uses many authoritarian tactics — strict secrecy, media censorship, and the like — to promote "stability" and slavish adherence to central authority. When the disease first started showing up in December 2019, the Wuhan government ordered all government agencies to act like everything was "normal". This delayed public discovery about the virus for 40 days, probably causing the pandemic to be much worse than if China had a free press.[140] One doctor, Li Wenliang, who attempted to raise the alarm about the new coronavirus, was actually punished for "spreading false rumours".[note 4] Wenliang died from the coronavirus on February 7th, 2020, causing widespread outrage on Chinese social media, actually threatening to overwhelm Chinese social media censors for a time.[141][142]

Since then, China has been proud to show images in official media coverage that they are fighting the virus. (However, some of the images that they show are not what they claim to be.)[143] Of course, they remain dedicated to censoring any *unofficial* viewpoints in social media. China is happy to flood social media with the "official viewpoint" that the outbreak is under control and we all shall be returning to work soon, citizens! [144] In reality, China's clumsy, slow reaction to COVID-19 (a reaction which was aggravated by the increasingly authoritarian government of Xi Jinping, and the consequential "authoritarian blindness" that tends to result in these systems due to being advised solely by "yes men")[145] has severely weakened the Chinese government credibility among many Chinese, in spite of the heavy propaganda machine. [146]

United States[edit]

White House briefing on COVID-19

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Trump administration seems more concerned about how the virus will affect his approval rating than anything else. Seemingly taking a cue from Limbaugh above, White House chief of staff Mick MulvaneyWikipedia's W.svg, at a CPACWikipedia's W.svg conference, blamed the media for exaggerating the seriousness of COVID-19 because "they think this will bring down the president, that’s what this is all about." He also bizarrely compared COVID-19 as equal to influenza just as Limbaugh did.[147]

Trump ordered all government official statements about COVID-19 to be funneled exclusively through a new panel led by Vice President Mike Pence — a man who once proclaimed in 2001 that "smoking doesn't kill", ignoring the scientific consensus (solid since the 1960s [148]) that tobacco smoking is deadly. [note 5][149][150] Letting someone like, say, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director[151] Anthony FauciWikipedia's W.svg speak freely about COVID-19 is absolutely verboten.[152]

And taking a page from the Chinese government's playbook, a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) whistleblower was reassigned from her position after raising concerns about HHS staff being in contact with coronavirus evacuees without proper protective equipment.[153] A few months later, Captain Brett Crozier, commander of the USS Roosevelt, was fired for sounding the alarm on the spread of COVID-19 on his ship.[154]

South Korea[edit]

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases quadrupled in South Korea due to the actions of the secretive sect ShincheonjiWikipedia's W.svg, which continued to host worship sessions after several of its members caught the virus and failed to inform health authorities of the outbreak by submitting falsified lists of its members. So far, over 60% of reported cases in South Korea are linked with Shincheonji, and Korean authorities are currently seeking murder and wrongful death charges against the sect.[155]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Bizarrely, Limbaugh also ranted about fentanylWikipedia's W.svg, declaring the Russians had (in his mind) similarly "weaponized fentanyl", citing the 2002 Moscow hostage theater crisisWikipedia's W.svg as proof. The general consensus is that much, although not all, of the fentanyl that came into the United States during the opioid epidemic in the 2010sWikipedia's W.svg actually came from China.[53] That being said, his description in the program of what it is actually like to take an opioid is noteworthy given his personal experience.Wikipedia's W.svg
  2. Most experts believe that common surgical masks will not do any good for preventing this particular virus. The virus may even be too small in size for heavier duty N95 respirators to filter it out effectively.[70]
  3. Chloroquine is a synonym for chloroquine phosphate.
  4. Although without an accurate understanding of the pathology of the newly discovered disease, and absent of a robust and independent reporting system, there is little Dr. Li could do as an individual.
  5. Ironic considering COVID-19's threat to smokers in particular.


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  9. I call it the pathological irony of crisis (happens w/financial crises, too): if you lose your credibility, your statements begin to mean the opposite of what you say. by Austan Goolsbee (5:28 AM - 4 Feb 2020) Twitter (archived from February 5, 2020).
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  101. HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE & AZITHROMYCIN, taken together, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine. The FDA has moved mountains - Thank You! Hopefully they will BOTH (H works better with A, International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents) … be put in use IMMEDIATELY. PEOPLE ARE DYING, MOVE FAST, and GOD BLESS EVERYONE! @US_FDA @SteveFDA @CDCgov @DHSgov by Donald Trump (7:13 AM - 21 Mar 2020) Twitter (archived from 21 Mar 2020 16:28:44 UTC).
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