Rumors, like COVID-19, spread: Charlotte County points out the fake news

April 3, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

BY OLIVIA CAMERON – There is a large amount of misinformation circulating regarding the Coronavirus pandemic. Medical experts are up against time to research the virus and formulate the correct information. This research is vital to public health and containment. 
However, the spread of rumors is comparable to how quickly the virus is scattering. These misconceptions have the potential to ruin what we do know about COVID-19.
Brian Gleason, Communications Manager of the Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners, has taken to the web to clear up any miscommunication. The Charlotte County Governmental Portal website has the latest updates on what is true and what is just fake news. 
“Like urban legends that gain traction because they have a whiff of plausibility, myths and rumors accompany emergency situations because of the extraordinary changes that can happen,” said Gleason. “During a pandemic, which few people alive today have experienced, any government action seems plausible, even likely.”
The false statements gathered include misinformation on package delivery, helicopters spraying disinfectants, pet transmission and more.  
Rumor also has it that Charlotte County has enacted a nighttime curfew. However, the website states this is not the case so far and would be widely publicized if created.
The site disproves these false statements from word of mouth and provides updates on business statuses, treatment options, and more COVID-19 information.
Gleason believes the website will promote more precautious actions among the county and possibly contain the panic. 
“Rumor control is an important part of any crisis communication plan,” he said. “Inevitably during emergencies, false information circulates through a community.” 
Social media has allowed for miscommunication to get out of control. Many platforms have created banners on their sites that can direct the public to the latest COVID-19 information if clicked on. 
Some of the rumors are more surprising, including talk of an alcohol ban and cell phone tracking to ensure social distancing. Despite their stretch, answers are what people need.  
“Unfortunately, rumors incite fear, panic buying, distrust and uncertainty that adds to an already precarious situation. It can get to the point where even real orders given to protect the public are considered rumors or false information,” said Gleason. 
Putting attention to the right information is the best way to handle the current situation. For more on COVID-19 rumors and explanations, visit charlottecountyfl.gov/Pages/rumors.aspx.