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  • Photograph by Mohammad Fahim

Why are some of us still in denial?

The numbers are adding up quickly. Still, some of us aren’t taking COVID-19 as seriously as it warrants.

Just this week a backyard party of 20 people was broken up in Brampton Ontario and the city is preparing to lay it’s first fine.

A Toronto-based fitness club made a statement on Facebook a few days earlier saying that they’re “still receiving calls from people looking for gyms that are still open,” and kindly reminding people that everyone should be staying home.

A recent Angus Reid Poll shows that “one in every eight adults is of the view that the threat of a coronavirus outbreak is “overblown”.

So what gives? Why are so many of us in denial about COVID-19?

Feeling untouchable for some reason? Don’t.

You might not think this applies to you if you’re young, you’re really healthy, and maybe you don’t have any underlying conditions. You’re looking for a reason you might not get it, get it bad, or get it and give it to someone else. Don’t. This pandemic includes you.

According to the federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, up to 70 percent of Canadians could catch this thing.

Need more? Here are a few demographic slices from across the globe that might convince you. Australia’s wave is affecting those in their 20s more than any other age group. Globally, the virus is affecting more men than women. And, otherwise healthy children are falling ill and also tragically dying from COVID-19.

Trouble sorting through the noise

According to University of Regina behavioural scientist Gordon Pennycook, “where people receive their information and what kind of information they are receiving plays a big part in how serious people are taking the pandemic.”

The sheer volume of news on this single topic is mind-blowing. So how should we choose? First thing to do is to avoid looking for promises of a made-at-home cure or a medical breakthrough posted on social media.

As the UK alone battles ten or more news articles spreading misinformation about COVID-19 a day, the UK government pleads with people to, “follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Same goes here. A couple great tips are to only share trusted sources and be wary of speculation.  Don’t be afraid to take a break from it all for a minute either.   

Distrusting science and our political leaders

While the majority of Canadians accept the seriousness of this coronavirus, some people  feel that the response has been overblown; almost 20 percent of us according to one poll. That’s at odds with how this virus is working its way through Canada. COVID-19 has shown up in 600 nursing homes across the country, accounting for 75 of 161 deaths (as of April 2).

As numbers surge in Ontario, a province whose latest numbers show over 400 new cases in one day, Conservative Premier Doug Ford says:  "Right now, today, there is very little separating what we will face here in Ontario from the devastation we have seen in Italy and Spain… We know a surge is coming."

In Canada, officials don’t take warnings like this lightly: Toronto Mayor pleaded with residents to stay home after warm weather tempted people out of self-isolation.

The danger is, if we’re not taking this seriously, then we’re less likely to be washing our hands, staying at home, and practicing physical distancing. And that puts everyone at risk.

Let’s stay the course, we’re all in this together

Up to a quarter of people with COVID-19 may not show symptoms, but are still contagious. History is hinting that we’re in this for the long haul. The 1918 flu peaked in 1918 but the pandemic lasted until 1920, the final tally of those who perished around the world landed at 50 million. No one of any political stripe or demographic wants that.

Think of yourself as a link in a chain. The chain is everyone you care about. If you’re not taking COVID-19 seriously, you are the weak link in the chain. You put others at risk. So let’s strengthen the chain, together—but apart.

Still in denial? Listen to the terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenneger.

 

Jo Snyder is a seasoned communications professional with expertise on the social determinants of health and health equity. Over her career she’s worked with think tanks, non-profits and big tech to deliver comms of all kinds.

This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada.

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