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COVID-19 Resources

BUSTED: The Myths and Facts of COVID-19

Aug. 4, 2020

Scientists and researchers around the world learn more every day about the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19.


It may be overwhelming to digest all this new information — and maybe even more difficult to understand fact from fiction.

To make it a little easier, we’ve debunked some of the biggest myths about COVID-19.

MYTH: We are seeing more positive COVID-19 cases because we are testing more people.

FACT: While more testing can contribute to more positive cases, our community has seen an overall increase in the percentage of positive cases.

From mid-June to July 1, daily new cases in Hamilton County more than doubled, which represents a higher burden of the infection in our community. Some Greater Cincinnati neighborhoods, called “hotspots,” have a particularly high positivity rate.

Our community also saw an increase in the daily number of COVID-19 hospitalizations during the same time period.

More testing does not fully account for these increases.

MYTH: The main purpose of a mask is to protect myself from getting COVID-19.

FACT: A mask can keep out some droplets and virus, protecting the person wearing the mask. Importantly, though, it keeps most of the droplets and virus IN. This is called “source control” — controlling the source of the virus.

Wearing a mask protects others from contracting the virus from someone in case he/she has the virus and doesn’t know it. Others around them should also wear masks and socially distance to be even more protected.

Emerging evidence from research studies continues to help us learn more about the effectiveness of masks and cloth face coverings.

MYTH: If I don't feel sick, I don't have COVID-19.

FACT: Many people who have COVID-19 have no or minimal symptoms. Researchers are still trying to understand the prevalence of “asymptomatic carriage” — how many people carry the virus with no symptoms. Estimates are as high as two in five, or 40%, of people with COVID-19 have no or minimal symptoms. Estimates will probably change as we learn more.

Because we don’t know the rate of asymptomatic carriage, we should all take precautions like social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing to reduce the spread of infection.

MYTH: If we all wear masks, we don't need to be 6 feet apart.

FACT: Cloth face coverings and masks are NOT a replacement for social distancing. Whenever you are outside your home or around anyone outside your immediate household circle, you should stay 6 feet away from others, in addition to wearing a mask. These are two tools to keep you safe.

MYTH: If I'm young and I get COVID-19, I will be fine.

FACT: While older age can be a risk factor for more severe disease, younger people can also become severely ill and even die from COVID-19. Age is just one risk factor for severe disease and death. Certain medical conditions can pose risks, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), weakened immune system from organ transplantation, obesity and diabetes.

People who may need extra precautions include certain racial and ethnic minority groups, people who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding and people with disabilities.

Even if you’re young and recover, getting coronavirus may have some health consequences. It’s possible that you may lose 10–20% of your lung capacity or suffer other lasting effects.

Because young people may be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, they may unknowingly infect others. That’s why it’s important that everyone takes safe precautions.

MYTH: Children cannot get COVID-19.

FACT: While children are less likely to show severe signs of illness, anyone at any age can become infected, and some children have experienced serious and unusual symptoms. Also, we are unsure of the long-term health consequences of having the infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend children 2 years and older should wear a cloth face covering in public, in addition to cleaning hands often and avoiding people who are sick.

MYTH: I don't need to take precautions when I'm outside because the virus is less likely to spread.

FACT: While the virus tends to disperse outdoors, it can still spread from person to person when they are in close contact (within 6 feet). Continue to take the same precautions outside as you do inside.

In general, indoor spaces with less ventilation pose a higher risk for spreading infection, and it may be more difficult to keep 6 feet of distance between you and others while indoors. Therefore, activities are safer outside than inside.

MYTH: If I have COVID-19 but no symptoms, I can't pass the virus to other people.

FACT: You can still spread the virus if you have COVID-19 but no symptoms. Therefore, it’s important that everyone — including those who don’t feel sick — take precautions like wearing a mask or cloth face covering and maintaining social distance of 6 feet from others.

MYTH: Wearing a mask or face covering can be harmful because I could breathe in carbon dioxide or won't receive enough oxygen.

FACT: Masks and face coverings do not affect your oxygen or carbon dioxide levels, and are safe for healthy people to wear for long periods of time. Even N95 masks, the kind of mask reserved for medical professionals, do not pose any risk of carbon dioxide poisoning or poor access to oxygen.

The CDC advises that people who should not wear a mask or cloth face covering are children younger than 2 years old, people who have trouble breathing and anyone who is unconscious or incapacitated or may have trouble removing the mask if necessary.