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Ventura County doctors worry over false information about COVID-19 circulating on web

Ventura County resident Judy Mikovits appears in "Plandemic"
Ventura County resident Judy Mikovits appears in "Plandemic"

VENTURA, Calif. -- Now more than ever doctors in Ventura County feel people are believing false information about COVID-19 that they read and see on social media. Local doctors say believing in conspiracy theories can be dangerous.

Some call the coronavirus a hoax, and conspiracy theories have spread like a wildfire. It's been especially hard for doctors on the front lines who have heard many community members calling the virus a hoax.

“I wish it were, but it’s not,” said Melissa Barger, who is the infectious disease physician Ventura County Medical Center. “It is not like the flu, because it hasn’t behaved that way. We have seen the mortality and it’s worse.”

There are countless articles and videos making it hard for people to determine what is real and what isn't.

“Being in the hospital and caring for patients that are so gravely ill, and seeing how this disease is not another flu, then coming home and hearing from family about something they heard, or even seeing people protesting saying how this whole pandemic is fake, it truly hurts,” said Anthony Walls, an ICU doctor at Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital.

Dr. Walls thinks some people have a hard time believing in things they can’t see, but he believes most people do see through the false information

“When we have a vaccine that is proven to be safe, I think it is going to be much similar to other infectious diseases where there will be a minority that don’t want to take it, but a majority will be enough to keep this virus down at a low threat,” said Walls.

A few weeks ago a conspiracy theory video known as “Plandemic” flooded Facebook and YouTube. It was produced by an Ojai filmmaker. Former Ventura County resident Judy Mikovits appears in the video claiming the virus was caused by a bad strain of flu vaccine circulating between 2012 and 2015. The Anti-Vaccination activist does not believe a vaccine is needed to prevent the virus from spreading, and says wearing masks will make the virus worse.

 “I have not seen a video of this type gain this much of viral traction so quickly,” said Alan Duke, who is an Internet fact checker.

Duke say Facebook and Youtube removed the video based on dangerous claims and false information. But by the time social media websites took the video down, it already had billions of views.

“A lie travels faster, because people want to believe these things, and it fits their beliefs and so they want to share it with their friends that they got some inside knowledge,” said Duke.

Social media sites are struggling to keep up with all the conspiracy theories that are out there.

“It is very dangerous to listen people who are not backing their decisions and statements up with evidence,” said Walls.

Doctors say those who have doubted the virus and its severity quickly have a change of heart when a loved one is affected.

“When patients come here and are hospitalized, they are very sick and they are scared, and their families are scared and they ask us information and I get the feeling that they trust us,” said Leslie-Lynn Pawson, who is a Family Physician at VCMC.

As the economy reopens, doctors say the dangers are still there, but so are the conspiracy theories.

“The fact that we are loosening our physical distancing recommendations should not allow anyone to thinking that this is gone,” said Pawson.

“I can't speak on any of the theories except that this virus is real. It causes people to be sick like I have never seen before and the strongest weapon that we have so far is avoidance, therefore social distancing,” said Walls.

Article Topic Follows: Ventura County

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Senerey de los Santos


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